So what are the lessons to be learned from 9/11? And did we learn them? Did some of us? Did all of us learn some of them? Did different people take away different things? Certainly yes to that last one.
The first lesson I take away is, leadership makes a difference. What if we had had different leadership during that time? I really don't know enough about Al Gore to speculate on how his administration might have responded, so I will suggest JFK. Imagine how JFK would have handled it. The man who kept his head during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when everyone around him was urging him to escalate, at the very height of cold war tension.
JFK was the man who launched the Green Berets. I suggest a very measured response would have followed. I don't believe there would have been a war in Afghanistan, much less Iraq. I believe he would have accepted the offer of OBL to be handed over to a third party for an internationally observed trial. Show the world that America really does believe in law and order.
Instead, of course, we showed the world that we can be angry and vengeful. We're going to war! And you're either with us or you're against us! And you don't want to be against us! The sad part is virtually everybody was with us, and would have stayed with us if we would have been less bellicose.
Also, I think we did learn that not everybody views us as wonderful old America. Everybody's best friend. Envy of the world. I think that was news to way too many people. It can be very hard to view oneself from another perspective and I will grant you that the perspective of Al Qaeda is not one I would have thought of. But still, was/is some examination of our role in the world called for? Yes! We need to stop assuming that we know it all, already. Let's try to find out what the rest of the world thinks and actually consider that they might have a point. Again, not Al Qaeda. They have no validity. But let's ask ourselves why anybody would even listen to them. Why do they get any support at all? Sometimes if you want to win friends and influence people you have to work at it, and not just assume that everyone will love you because you love yourself so much.
Finally, I think the biggest lesson to learn, and we've been told before and we'll be told again, is that life goes on. The world didn't stop turning that day. Whatever happens we have to deal with it. And a big, fat temper tantrum is always a poor way of dealing with anything. Look what it got us.