The aftermath: 'War against terror' and more lives lost
Philosopher Bertrand Russell once summed up war in a sentence. He said: War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
And right he was.
Post 9-11, US waged a ''war against terror'' in Afghanistan and a supposedly ''unrelated'' war against Iraq as well.
Since then, the triumphant head of Osama has been purged in the sea and war cries have sounded for the head of more Al Qaeda terrorists hiding in corners of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The war continues.
Experts say 9-11 unified America in a way like nothing else could. Whether that unity is matter of debate but the public was almost unified in its demands. The support for going after Al Qaeda, an anomaly for an American public that usually agrees on little, was almost unanimous.
We wanted to win and to make the bad guys lose was the motto.
America today faces enormous, decades-old problems. The willing work force can't find jobs. The housing market is weighing down a fragile economy. America faces mounting debt threatening to crush generations ahead. The old safety net - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid- is in critical condition. The schools drastically lag behind those of other nations.
Conventional wisdom would say it's frustrating, maybe even sad, that American leaders can't seem to come together to fix these woes - no matter which political party is in power. But it's also totally understandable. A diverse nation of people with vastly different ideas can never truly be unified. And here's something else: Maybe, just maybe, it shouldn't be.
Doesn't a healthy democracy depend on dissenting viewpoints? And don't controlled disagreements make us what we are? Wouldn't actual unity prevent growth in a nation whose best times have come with - or come from - great change?
Yet if unity is unattainable, disunity can be toxic. Just look at this summer's debt debate. It further soured an already surly American public on the ability of the federal government to work, much less solve the nation's problems.
The country was wounded that day, no doubt. New York was devastated. But a city, of course, is not monuments or buildings. It is the people who make the place, and we saw hundreds jump out of the building to avoid a charred death inside a burning building, but it is the ones that remain that treasure their lives and pay homage to the ones that had to lose theirs.
But the ultimate triumph of New York is not the memorial or the museum or the new Freedom Tower (WTC). It is the resurgence of life in the streets around ground zero. More people live there today than did on Sept. 10, 2001. They are the closest thing the city will ever have to permanence.
September 11 will always be different, for the generations that follow. More people will be able to see it and curate their own 9/11 story from a wealth of sources. No one will ever be too far off from this tale.
And for those who lived through it, they can re-experience it on demand, as they are bound to experience it this anniversary again.
The day will forever etch itself in the memory of everyone, irrespective of nationality, cast, creed or colour everywhere in the world for it is the day when a giant wept.
Image: In this image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to diffuse the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House on Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Washington.(Photo credit: AP)