The 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States is now a few days old. The news media was filled with stories, interviews, and opinions about the legacy of that fateful day. Social media was overflowing with images, audio clips, movies, and thoughts around how important it is to remember and “never forget” that terrible, devastating day.

Twenty years… they have gone by so fast. Once we paused to stop and think about it, it didn’t seem like that long ago. For at least one day, we almost seemed united in our hearts and minds about how we all felt all those years ago.


A lot has happened in the last 20 years. A lot of good and a lot of bad. While September 11 was one of the single most horrific days in American and world history, it did unite us as a country — as Americans. For all the fear, uncertainty, and heartbreak surrounding that day, we did come together as a nation. Republican or Democrat, black, white or other, male or female… whatever. None of it mattered.

It did not matter to the firefighters and police officers who instantly rushed to the World Trade Center after the planes crashed into the towers. It did not matter to the people who were desperately trying to help each other escape the impending doom of those two buildings. It did not matter to the brave passengers on United flight 93, who we determined to thwart the murderous intent of their hijackers. And it certainly did not matter to the al-Qaeda terrorists who conducted this diabolical attack on unsuspecting civilians.

There is a profound lesson in all of that: We are already forgetting.


A Very Different Place Than 20 Years Ago

Members of the U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group, protect the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 27, 2020. (CBP)

We are, for better and for worse, not the same country we were 20 years ago. As poignant as all the reminders and memorials for September 11 are to me, I can’t neglect that we are split and fractured. This is very disturbing to me. We are polarized and angry at one another. We are not united.