Sometimes I'm asked what memories I have of 9/11. From a news reporter standpoint it was the biggest story of my lifetime--but when the anniversary of that day comes around every year, I choose not to think about the video footage, the press conferences or the mood of the people that day. Instead, I always focus on just 19-men:
Hani Hanjour--in the US illegally on an expired student visa
Khalid Al-Mindhar--on the US terror watch list and in the country on a tourist visa
Nawaf Al-Hamzi--in the US illegally after overstaying a tourist visa
Salem Al-Hamzi--in the US on a tourist visa
Majed Moqed--in the US on a tourist visa
Mohammed Atta--in the US as a work trainee visa
Satam Al-Suqami--in the US illegally after overstaying a tourist visa
Waleed Al-Shehri--in the US illegally after overstaying a tourist visa
Wail Al-Shehri--in the US on a tourist visa
Abdulaziz Al-Omari--in the US on a tourist visa
Marwan Al Shehhi--in the US on a student visa
Fayez Banihammad--in the US on a tourist visa
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi--in the US illegally after overstaying a tourist visa
Hama Al-Ghamdi--in the US on a tourist visa
Mohand Al-Shehri--in the US on a tourist visa
Zaid Jarrah--in the US on a tourist visa
Saeed Al-Ghamdi--in the US on a tourist visa
Ahmed Al-Haznawi--in the US on a tourist visa
Ahmed Al-Nami--in the US on a tourist visa
In thinking about those men, I imagine them praying the night before and the day of the attacks praying that there small weapons get through the security checkpoints at the airport, or that their passports won't be denied at check-in, or that the passengers on the flights won't put up much of a fight, and that they are able to fly the planes that they only had experience with in simulators to their intended targets. And except for the case of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, those men's prayers were answered.
So why would I only think of those men--when so many Americans died on that day--and the rest of our lives were so greatly altered? Because if those men had never been allowed into the country--or someone at security had said "there seem to be a lot of men from terrorists hotbed countries bringing box cutters onto planes here today" or if intelligence operations had shared information known about each of these men, all those who were honored at memorial services yesterday would have been back at work or home with their families on September 12th, 2001.
And yet, you heard little mention of those 19-men yesterday. It's almost as if an effort is afoot to wipe them from the history of 9/11. President Obama certainly didn't mention them in his speech. You would have thought those thousands of people had died in a horrible accident or a natural disaster. And that is why I think about those 19-men--because who they were and what they believed in are the sole cause of 9/11 and the aftermath that has cost thousands more lives. And that must be remembered (and avenged) as well.