CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On this date 11 years ago, history made a dramatic shift. Warfare entered a new dimension. Danger from foreign armies, always remote, suddenly was upstaged by extremely real new peril from hidden cliques of suicidal fanatics eager to kill themselves to commit mass murder.
Almost every adult remembers the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. About 3,000 Americans were killed by zealots armed only with utility knives, who seized four airliners and used them as projectiles for horrific slaughter.
The killers left behind a handwritten testament saying they were acting for God, who would reward them with "the women of paradise." Insanity. Who thinks God craves murder, and will bless the murderers in heaven? It was lunacy -- but it was the new reality.
Of course, danger from radical armed extremists had existed previously, but few people had noticed. Sept. 11 thrust it forcefully onto the world stage. Ever since, suicide bombers and allied terrorists have been the foremost cause of bloodshed around the planet. Attack after attack has occurred in Western cities. The cost of Homeland Security became astronomical.
However, the chief victims of Muslim terrorism have been Muslims themselves. Last year, research by Britain's The Lancet concluded that 12,284 Iraqi civilians were killed by suicide bombers during the U.S. occupation, while 30,644 were wounded. More Iraqi deaths have happened since then. And Iraq is merely one locale in the worldwide blitzkrieg of suicide attacks.
What drives some ardent young people to volunteer to kill themselves so they can murder others in a cause they think is noble or holy -- but others see as crazy?
In the aftermath of the historic 2001 attack on America, Congress declared Sept. 11 to be Patriot Day, a time for solemn ceremonies and lowering of U.S. flags to half-mast. The law also requests a national moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first airliner struck the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
President Obama decreed today as Patriot Day. He wisely noted that America's conflict lies solely with hidden terror groups, not with "Islam or any other religion." He observed that Sept. 11, 2001, "changed who we are" and "brought out the best in the American people."
Today, pause a moment to reflect on the remarkable change that was triggered by the madness of that fateful day.