20 years on … 3,000 miles away … It doesn’t get any easier.
The 20-year milestone since 9/11 was also marked at a memorial at Grosvenor Square London, the old home of the U.S. Embassy, underscoring the global nature of the tragedy. Next to Americans, more Britons died in the attack, than people from any other country. And some 640 Britons were killed in the wars that followed. Again, after the U.S., the highest toll, at 67.
Everyone has their own 9/11 stories.
We were posted in Paris at the time for Fox News. We came into our office and a French cameraman rushed up to tell me to look at the TV screen, towers ablaze. I checked in on my family in the States, and then our foreign desk.
The next day we were off to Pakistan, next door to Afghanistan. We met with the Taliban ambassador there, and never looked back. Tours in Afghanistan brought us to the one-time bin Laden home base of Tora Bora. The Taliban launch pad of Kandahar, and countless rough and tumble embedments with brave U.S. service members from Kunar province to Khost.
We did our time in Iraq as well, that other war spawned by the attacks of 9/11, in some ways uglier and deadlier than Afghanistan, then all the horrible terror attacks that followed, from Paris to Brussels to Madrid and Berlin, as the U.S. and allies waged what came to be known as the global war on terror.
It was all-consuming for us. For many, for the last 20 years right down to the recent events in Afghanistan. That saw the withdrawal of US troops and the chilling return to power of the Taliban.
We recently had a chance to speak with Ryan Crocker. He is former ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Arguably more than any other U.S. diplomat, central to the last 20 years of conflict. Our paths have crossed often.
He was in New York City on 9/11. He saw the first World Trade Center tower hit. He told me at that time he knew his life was going to change dramatically. He also told the recent pullout of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was a real and dangerous mistake, but that the U.S. learns from mistakes.
He concluded by saying he is sure in the future the U.S. will be safe and secure and prosperous. Here’s hoping. And praying.