They were killed in the Twin Towers, in a field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon itself. Police officers and fire fighters fell by the hundreds trying to save as many as they could. All were victims of the kind of terror Americans had grown used to hearing about elsewhere. But not here.
A grieving America turned to images of the Statue of Liberty to find solace. Artists from around the world depicted the statue as sad or proud or a mother defending her child. Our nation rallied under the motto: "United We Stand."
Now we know we were never all that united. Soon after fire fighters raised a flag in the ruins of New York, the fingerpointing began. George Bush was to blame, though he only recently had taken office. America was to blame because of its longstanding friendship with Israel. Everyone was to blame it seemed, except the monsters driven by hate to harm the innocent.
Not long after the Twin Towers fell, the crazy conspiracies rose in their place. The attack was an inside job we were told as the 9/11 truther industry spread like the plague it is. By 2004, "half (49.3%) of New York City residents and 41% of New York citizens overall say that some of our leaders ‘knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act,'" according to a Zogby International poll.
Nearly a decade after these attacks, many crazies still believe America was involved or knew they were going to happen. A poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion from March 2010 claims 15 percent "think claims that the collapse of the World Trade Center was the result of a controlled demolition are credible." Millions around the globe believe this garbage - blaming the U.S. or even Israel for the attacks.
Journalism, the supposed "first draft of history," has failed in one of the most important events in recent memory. It's no wonder. Many of today's talking heads have pushed this hurtful nonsense as a way to bash Bush.
Hollywood's own Rosie O'Donnell told "The View" that, while she didn't blame government for the World Trade Center attack, one of the buildings fell in a way that "defies physics." O'Donnell went on to say "it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved." The same show also devoted some of its airtime to the equally despicable truther fantasies of former Minnesota Gov. and pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
It wasn't just the news. The FX show "Rescue Me" even included claims that a 9/11 conspiracy was part of of "a massive neo-conservative government effort." Whether it's former green jobs czar Van Jones signing a truther petition or loose cannon Florida Rep. Alan Grayson who said Bush "let it happen," too many fringe elements have capitalized on our national misery.
Just scant days before this year's 9/11 anniversary, ABC's "Nightline" profiled a talk radio truther who said the attacks were "an inside job" and "a staged event to launch the Iraq war."
Some crazies are laughing all the way to the bank. Search Amazon.com for "9/11 truth" and there are more than 200 items from books and DVDs to T-shirts with the slogan "9/11 was an inside job!" and a picture of the buildings burning with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld laughing nearby.
Far too many on the left and right believe such insanity. Their theories have thousands of their fellow Americans complicit in the evil scheme, because it would have taken a cast of thousands to accomplish such evil. They believe nonetheless.
Others chastise us for responding at all. Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria recently blasted America's response to the attacks. According to Zakaria, who will soon be moving his tripe to Time magazine, "September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted."
Somehow I doubt Zakaria overreacted. It's also unclear what would have satisfied him. Did Minute Men overreact after Lexington and Concord? We certainly could have tried harder to find peace with Britain rather than fight. Should we have forgiven Santa Anna his attack on the Alamo? I doubt those who died there would have wanted that. Did we overreact after Pearl Harbor? Perhaps America should have tried to find peace with Imperial Japan instead of fighting for freedom.
That's the kind of 20/20 hindsight easy for those in the media who think themselves so above the pain and anguish that they remove flags and patriotism from their broadcasts. This year, journalists will once again try to understand the lingering wound that is 9/11. And once again they will fail.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans want more. Nine years later and we are still seeking justice. Perhaps Bin Laden is already dead or we might never find him. One day he will answer for his crimes. The Bible tells us: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill." This 9/11, perhaps that's all is the comfort we can find.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently for the Fox Forum. Gainor can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.