ADA — The horrors of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center permeated Carson Babbit’s childhood like a haze: The day become something of a taboo subject among his father and the survivors who populated Babbit’s home state of New Jersey.
Nobody wanted to relive that day, said Babbit, who at 19 years old has no memories of his own to draw from.
Babbit’s father was so close to the attack that his entire office building shook and was later demolished, Babbit said. But even his father was reluctant to talk about the experience until more recently.
The legacy was so close and yet distant for Babbit, now a sophomore at Ohio Northern University, who is part of a generation of Americans born and raised in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when Islamist extremists with al Qaeda hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It was the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, which provoked the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in the nation’s history.
The war has killed at least 47,000 Afghan civilians and 6,200 American service members and contractors through April, according to the Associated Press.
John Wysocki enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 2000, unwittingly registering to partake in a global War on Terror that would consume the next decade of his life.
Wysocki, 48, saw from his first deployment to Afghanistan that the democratic project was bound to fail. What worried him most was the possibility that he would die “for no particular reason” in a war that had come to feel meaningless the longer he served.
Watching the Taliban return to power as the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan, Wysocki was reminded again of those lessons: “No matter how long you’re here, we look at you as another occupying force,” Wysocki recalled in August, describing the sentiment among Afghan civilians and interpreters who worked alongside U.S. forces.
Now, the War on Terror may never end because the children of Taliban fighters and others killed in U.S. wars could “harbor resentment” toward America for generations, Wysocki said.
“If it was truly revenge and we wanted to take out the terrorist training camps, that happened early on without special forces,” Wysocki said. “It wasn’t necessary that we move in hundreds of thousands of troops to try to occupy the country.”
To Skylar Dent, 19, the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks feels extreme in hindsight.
“We did far worse damage in those foreign countries over the decades,” Dent said. Today, Dent is more concerned about the prospect of mass shootings. And the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated at $2 trillion plus interest, could have been better spent on domestic issues, Dent said.
“It’s aggravating when we have so many things going on here that could be fixed with that money, that we could see real results today,” she said. “But instead, what is happening is hundreds of thousands of miles away and over decades, for nothing.”