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The Final Casualties of September 11

When a suicide bomber killed 13 American soldiers, they became the last United States citizens to die as a result of 9/11. Like those who perished on 9/11, these soldiers died at the hands of radical Muslim terrorists. Indeed, they should be included in the body count connected to the attacks on September 11th.

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While we are right to honor those whose lives were extinguished as the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, PA, it would be remiss not to include so many others who died as a result of the hatred that exploded like the jets that struck these sites.

There are the soldiers who died in Afghanistan as we sought to bring to justice those who perpetrated the attacks. There are those murdered by white supremacists in a wave of Islamophobia and racism that swept, and continues to sweep, our nation. There are the first responders who died, not only in the collapse of the towers, but of diseases and illnesses related to their service at the sites. And there are the unborn; those who never got the chance to live because the lives of those who could have been their parents were killed in the attacks.

September 11th

History has recorded that almost three thousand lives were lost in the terror attacks. The names of those killed in both planes and both towers are carved in granite at the footprints of where the towers once stood. Visitors to the memorial describe the same emotional reactions as those who have been to sites honoring those who died in wars. And indeed, these people are casualties of war.

Yet people often forget the six people who died in an earlier attack on these same buildings. On February 26, 1993, a different group of terrorists sought to damage, if not destroy these buildings by exploding 1,200 pounds of explosives in a parking garage beneath the towers. It’s entirely possible that the September 11th hijackers saw this as a practice run for what would ultimately be the deadly attacks.

Shouldn’t these people be added to the death toll?

The difficulty of grappling with survivor guilt was depicted in the novel What is Life Worth, as those left behind were offered financial compensation for the loss of their loved ones. This led to disagreements over how much each person was due. Rather than offer a lump sum to each of the survivors, lawyers battled over the potential lifetime earnings of certain people, claiming that a corporation CEO was worth more than a dishwasher that worked in the kitchen of one of the World Trade Center’s cafeterias.

While they ultimately agreed on a settlement, it certainly has to sting to be told that the life of your departed loved one is somehow less valuable than another’s.

Islamophobia and Racist Attacks

While most Americans saw the attacks on 9/11 as a unifying event, others channeled their anger into xenophobic attacks on those they deemed responsible. This led to assaults and even murders of those who were seen as “different”. A Sikh store owner in Arizona was murdered by a White supremacist who wanted to “go out and shoot some towel heads” in retaliation for the attacks, despite the fact Sikhs had nothing to do with these incidents of terror.

Some have cited the backlash from the 9/11 attacks as the motivation behind the increase in racist attacks. Indeed, even the rise of Donald Trump can be traced to this phenomenon. His support among White supremacists is well known. One of his first acts once he assumed office was to enact an Executive Order banning travel to the United States from predominantly Muslim countries.

A White supremacist murdered a counter-protester, Heather Heyer , as she attended a rally meant to support dismantling a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Trump would later refer to those defending the statute as “very fine people”.

He recently condemned the removal of a Lee statue in Richmond, VA, claiming those who wanted the monument removed were erasing history. Yet, he is throwing his full-throated support behind denying teaching Critical Race Theory.

The rise in attacks on Asian-Americans can be directly traced to the Xenophobia spawned following 9/11. Again spurred on by Donald Trump, these assaults and murders can be seen as an offshoot of terrorism.

Should these numbers be included in the death toll?

First Responders

On September 11th, first responders answered the call. The death toll from the attacks includes 344 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel. These are those who died as the towers collapsed or the Pentagon was attacked, but what about those who died in the days, months and years following 9/11?

The toll among those who attempted to rescue victims from the attacks, as well as those who cleared the sites of the tremendous wreckage, continues to rise. Cancer, lung ailments and PTSD are among the many illnesses associated with working at the 9/11 sites. The Victims Compensation Fund, set up to assist the families of those who perished, has been expanded to include the families of these first responders.

Yet, they are not included in the final death toll.

The Unborn

The recent ruling in Texas that enacts a law effectively outlawing abortion in the state brings to light the rights of the unborn. Yet, what about those who ever had the chance to be born? While the aforementioned Victims Compensation Fund sets a dollar value on human life, it is impossible to count the potential contributions of those who never had a chance to be born because the lives of those who would have been their parents were eliminated.

While there is no way to calculate just how many these would be, or what they could have contributed to society, these are also uncounted casualties of the 9/11 attacks.

The War in Afghanistan

This brings us full circle. If the September 11th attacks never happened, there would have been no reason for American soldiers to be in Afghanistan. Almost 2,500 soldiers lost their lives in the 20 years we were at war. And yet, they are somehow not counted as being victims of 9/11.

It can be argued that doing so would be equal to counting those who died during World War II as victims of Pearl Harbor, but the Second World War had far greater implications. The attack on Pearl Harbor was an effort to dominate the entire Pacific Ocean, whereas the 9/11 attacks were a direct assault on the American way of life. The hope was, by destroying the World Trade Center, it would result in a crippling of the American economy.

So, in essence, those who died in Afghanistan can be directly linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the 13 soldiers who died in the final, despicable suicide bombing should be considered as the final victims of 9/11.

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