A U.S. flag hanging from a steel girder, damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2019 as the sun rises behind One World Trade Center building and the re-developed area where the Twin Towers of World Trade Center once stood in New York City on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
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The TCU community spent time sharing their memories of 9/11 just before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. 

The university held a live panel on Wednesday, Sept. 8, to discuss where America was 20 years ago, where the nation is now and where it is headed.

NBC 5 Today anchor, Deborah Ferguson ‘87, hosted the panel. Ron Pitcock, the J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Honors Fellow and interim dean of the John V. Roach Honors College, and Meredith Casimes, TCU senior, joined Ferguson in the discussion.

Casimes, who was 15 months old when she lost her father in the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon, shared how the event still affects her today.

“Even though 9/11 was 20 years ago, which seems like such a long time ago, it is still affecting my everyday life,” Casimes said. “He was so dedicated to his work and was just so driven and motivated.”

Another TCU alum, Beverly Bass ‘74, was flying an American Airlines plane from Paris to Dallas on Sept. 11. Her experience was turned into the Broadway musical “Come From Away.”

For most, that day lives ingrained in their memory forever. TCU political science professors, Dr. Ralph G. Carter and Dr. James M. Scott, were in Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, not far from the White House or State Department, to interview members of Congress and their staff.

“There were some concerns about safety,” Carter said. “Phone lines were tied up but after several hours I called my wife to let her know I was unharmed. Both airports were closed, so I was stuck in Washington for four more days until I could get a flight out and get back to DFW.”

The attacks served as a wake-up call to many Americans who didn’t think that other countries might not like us, Carter said.

“That realization was a shock to many Americans,” he said.

After that day, many changes came upon the nation. The Department of Homeland Security was created, the economy suffered a negative impact and America sent thousands of troops to fight in the War on Terror.

Present day

The Trump administration made an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, which confirmed a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban agreed to halt attacks on U.S. service members and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a safe space for terrorists.  

The Biden administration inherited this agreement but modified the agreement to slow down the withdrawal. Trump and Biden’s decisions both received bipartisan support. 

“That this agreement and process would end in the return to power of the Taliban was clear enough to all concerned from the start, and the impending collapse of the Afghanistan government was inevitable,” Scott said. 

In April 2021, President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September.

“Our military commanders advised me that once I made the decision to end the war, we needed to move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown,” Biden said in a speech on July 8. “And in this context, speed is safety,” he said.

The president said in the same speech that the U.S. achieved its objectives in Afghanistan such as delivering justice to Osama Bin Laden and degrading the terrorist threat in the country.

The United States completed the withdrawal on Aug. 30, but not without more questions, concerns and lives lost.

A few days before the deadline, two bombs went off at the Kabul airport killing 13 U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghans. After an already criticized exit plan, Biden came back into the spotlight and stirred up a multitude of reactions.

“It could have gone better had it begun sooner and more quietly,” Carter said. “Once the U.S. announced it was leaving, there was no incentive for Afghan National Army personnel to believe they would be supported by the corrupt Afghan government. Many of those troops were only there for the paycheck, and many had gone unpaid for a long time.”

Although 80 percent of Americans approve of the withdrawal, about half think that the Biden administration’s handling of the operation was poor, Scott said. 

What’s next

The Taliban have gained control over the country again, taking away women’s rights and resorting to violence.

“A terrorist organization now leads a political regime. The interim Interior Minister has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head as the leader of the Haqqani terrorist organization,” said Carter when being asked what Americans should expect next.

“Afghanistan will become a haven for other anti-Western militant organizations,” he said. “Afghan women and girls will particularly suffer.”

[Read more on how Americans experienced the 20th Anniversary of 9/11]

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Alexandra Preusser is a senior journalism major and business minor from Wilmington, North Carolina. She has worked with TCU360 as a sports journalist and as a managing editor. She is also an intern with the TCU Athletics Communications Department.