It is right and fitting that we take a moment to grieve for the victims of religious fanatics. But we should all remember that this day might have been avoided.
I'm reprinting part of an interview Richard Clarke gave The Guardian after he resigned in disgust. To refresh your memory, Clarke was the anti-terrorism czar under Bush senior, Clinton and then W. Here's Clarke on what I consider the biggest security failure in my lifetime:
Mr. Clarke wrote that when he briefed Ms Rice on al-Qaida, "her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before".
He said Mr Bush's failure to put his administration on "battle stations" in anticipation of an attack meant vital clues were missed. He compared his actions with those of former US president Bill Clinton in similar circumstances in late 1999.
"In December 99 we get similar kinds of evidence that al-Qaida was planning a similar kind of attack. President Clinton asks the national security adviser to hold daily meetings with the attorney-general, the CIA, FBI," Mr Clarke said.
"They go back to their departments from the White House and shake the epartments out to the field offices to find out everything they can find. It becomes the number one priority of those agencies.
When the head of the FBI and CIA have to go to the White House every day, things
happen and by the way, we prevented the attack [an al-Qaida millennium bomb plot
aimed at Los Angeles airport].
"Contrast that with June, July, August 2001, when the president is being briefed virtually every day in his morning intelligence briefing that something is about to happen, and he never chairs a meeting and he never asks Condi Rice to chair a meeting about what we're doing about stopping the attacks. She didn't hold one meeting during all those three months.
"Now, it turns out that buried in the FBI and CIA there was information about two of these al-Qaida terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi]," he said. "The leadership of the FBI didn't know that, but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis ... to the White House, he would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those two guys were there. We would have put their pictures on the front page of every newspaper and we probably would have caught them."
"Now would that have stopped 9/11? I don't know. It would have stopped those two guys, and knowing the FBI the way they can take a thread and pull on it, they would probably have found others."
Mr Clarke concluded that "there was a chance" the whole plot could have been unravelled, "but they didn't take it".
When Mr. Clarke revealed this dangerous incompetence, the Bush administration did what it always does, it tried to destroy Clarke's reputation by attacking his motives and his character.
Since Clarke, other people have told their own stories about how this administration showed zero interest in terrorism before 9/11. Instead, they were fixated on Iraq.
I agree with Clarke when he says that there's no way of knowing if the attack could have been stopped, we only know that the Bush administration did nothing that could have stopped it.
And we know that after 9/11, when America turned to the president and asked with one voice, "What can we do?" he could have asked us to do anything, make any sacrifice, and we would have gladly signed on. He could have put this nation on an ambitious program to free ourselves of mideastern oil, which is what so many of us called for, but he didn't. No, he squandered an opportunity to unite us in anything larger than a consumer frenzy of shopping.
People say I'm angry and I suffer from BDS, and they're right. Because, when I hear some yahoo question whether I remember 9/11, I tell them, hell yes, I remember, but what I remember probably isn't the same thing you do. I remember something that didn't have to happen and I remember opportunities lost, all because some people voted for a guy they wanted to have a beer with.