The following excerpt piece was written by Hawaii’s own U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. He was asked to reflect on the how America has changed in the decade since the 9-11 attacks on America. Here is what he had to say:
by Sen. Daniel K Inouye
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I had just arrived at a hotel in downtown Washington.
I was set to address a gathering of Native Americans when a stranger rushed up to me in the lobby.
The man grabbed my arm and said, “Senator, I think you should see this,” as he ushered me toward the bar where a television was tuned to CNN.
It was there I saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center burning.
When I walked into the ballroom I was quickly introduced to give my speech. I immediately told the crowd, “There is something terrible happening in New York City and I fear it may be repeated here in Washington. May I suggest that, starting with the last row, we quietly walk out of the building.”
Within 10 minutes the ballroom was empty.
I left the hotel to return to my office in the Hart Senate Office Building. The streets teemed with people and traffic was at a standstill.
While I sat in the car, I was struck by the realization that what I saw on television was not a tragic accident and that the America we lived in and the lifestyle we enjoyed had become a thing of the past.
I came of age during World War II, and like Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, would forever change America.
Furthermore the images I saw flashing across the television screen in the hotel bar convinced me that this was not the start of a war between nations.
The target was not a military one, the target was innocent people.
America, and for that matter, the world, had never experienced a disaster of this magnitude, planned and executed by terrorists.
They may not have been large in number but buoyed by their distorted beliefs, they gave their lives to execute this terror.
It was a new chapter in the American way of life.
For the past 10 years we have sacrificed thousands of American lives in Afghanistan and spent billions of dollars and millions of hours of labor to counter the threat revealed on that fateful Tuesday morning.
On May 2, we finally killed Osama Bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
However, this does not mean that the terror has subsided. The threat continues and for how long, nobody knows.
Although this would be a burden on our way of life, we must remain vigilant.
In early days after Sept. 11, the drive was intense. We couldn’t do enough.
But the war in Afghanistan is winding down, and with the arrests and capture of those who sympathized or worked with the Sept. 11 perpetrators, many of my fellow Americans are a bit more relaxed and less concerned with the threat.
I was a boy of 17 when I heard the announcer shout over radio that Japanese planes were attacking Pearl Harbor.
I knew at that moment that my country and my life would never be the same. Six decades later, that moment came again when I watched passenger jets crash into the side of the World Trade Center.
After Pearl Harbor I put on the uniform and went off to fight for my country as did thousands of my brave brothers from the Greatest Generation.
Our nation was shocked into action by the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and a generation of Americans fought and died to shape the new world that came after the bombs fell.
Unfortunately, memories and the motivation they spur fade as the generations pass.
On the 50th anniversary of Dec. 7, 1941, a national poll was conducted with high school seniors. Less than 50 percent of those polled could give an adequate response to the question, “What is the significance of Dec. 7, 1941?”
I wonder what the results would be of a poll taken 40 years from now asking the same question about Sept. 11, 2001.
I sincerely hope that more than 50 percent would be able to recall that day of terror and what it has meant to America and the world.
Daniel K. Inouye