Updated: Sep 10, 2021
By Editorial Board
Reflecting on the events of 9/11 brings added poignancy this year as we watch Afghanistan fall back into Taliban hands.
It’s hard to find anything redeeming in the thousands of U.S and allied lives lost during a 20-year conflict that started and ended with the same despotic regime in power.
Advances in democracy, liberty and human rights won through decades of costly warfare are now at risk of dissolving overnight.
White House and Pentagon officials might try to point to an apparent softening of the Taliban’s image, but they’re not fooling anyone.
Sometimes, we have to settle with the small comfort that those who paid the ultimate price died for a cause they believed in.
There’s real value in that, even as many now wonder whether we should have committed troops to Afghanistan in the first place.
In some ways, though, that’s the point of service and sacrifice.
We see this at home when first responders routinely react to risky situations by showing up first and asking questions later.
Just last month, four local firefighters sustained injuries while struggling to contain a house fire suspected to have been started by arsonists.
Perhaps, if they’d known of the suspected cause before arriving, they would have been tempted to let the place burn down in front of them.
But to be tempted is not to succumb – we know our first responders put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out to keep the rest of us safe. And they do this whether we deserve it or not.
Similarly, when McKees Rocks police officers on recent occasions gave life-saving treatment to gunshot victims, they didn’t first check to see whether they brought on the attacks against them through violent or other unlawful actions of their own. They simply saw lives that needed to be saved and responded accordingly.
This is the essence of duty.
Along with the loved ones of those who never came back, local veterans who went to Afghanistan believing they could help rid the world of a great evil can hold on to this even while they may struggle to make sense of the outcome, and the actions of those who sent them.
Thankfully, the sacrifices of local first responders are frequently rewarded by tangible goods: lives saved, property saved, justice served. But it’s their willingness to risk their lives without promises of success that makes them true heroes.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, let’s remember sacrifice is always costly, even when the return isn’t clear.