September 11, 2018
In the 17 years since 9/11, an entire generation of Americans has grown up without stories of where they were that day. These are the kids who experienced the tragedy through history books -- pictures of the Statue of Liberty wreathed in smoke and stories of heroes racing into collapsing buildings to save people they'd never met. Online, they might have seen clips of the giant flag unfurling over the Pentagon, or the video of a president standing on a pile of rubble, vowing to make the terrorists pay.
These are the children who never knew the White House without barricades or got off an airplane into the outstretched arms of family waiting right at the gate. What they do know is life in a country that feels safe. The millions of us who watched planes erupt like fireballs in the twin towers wondered if that day would ever come again. Almost two decades into the new world that 9/11 built, we go about our days with so much certainty -- even more so now, under an administration that rebuilt the military, drove back ISIS, and broadcast America's resolve. Since President Trump, we haven't seen the San Bernardinos, the Chattanoogas, homegrown attacks on U.S. soil.
Part of that, the Heritage Foundation explains, is because the U.S. dramatically changed the way it approached terrorism. "This system will not stop all terrorism," David Inserra pointed out, "no system is or ever will be perfect -- but it has stopped 87 out of 104 Islamist terror plots and made it much harder for terrorists to carry out large, complex attacks." And the U.S. isn't the only one making a more concerted effort to stop extremists. In 2017, the University of Maryland found, "global terror attacks and fatalities decreased [as much as] 24 percent."
Under Trump, Americans are more reassured than ever. In a new Rasmussen poll, voters are "more confident than they have been in years that the country is safer today than it was before those attacks." The survey found that 47 percent of likely voters think the U.S. is safer today than it was before the 9/11 terrorist attacks" -- a 16-percent jump from last year, and "the highest level of confidence in the nation's safety in six years."
Of course, there is a danger in becoming complacent. We still have a porous border -- and despite our best intentions, radicals are quietly making their way onto American soil. "Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country," the president warned over the summer. "Has anyone been looking at the crime taking place south of the border? It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world." Refugees streamed into America under Barack Obama, many without the simplest of background checks. Evil men still chant death to our country. The threats are as real as ever.
In an election year, when all eyes are on the future, it's easy to overlook the past. But 9/11 is another reminder of how much is at stake this November. Our military families know it. The survivors of that horrible day know it. And the enemies of this nation know it. "The faith of our nation may have been tested in the avenues of New York City, on the shores of the Potomac, and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania," the president said, "but our strength never faltered, and our resilience never wavered." Seventeen years later, there's no better way to honor the thousands of men and women who lost their lives for being American than protecting the principles that make our country great.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.