George W. Bush, who was president during 9/11, said Saturday at a service marking 20 years since the attacks that disunity today made him “worried” about the future of the United States.
“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people,” Bush said in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the fourth hijacked plane came down.
“When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own,” he continued.
“So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, security was redefined, with changes to airport checkpoints, police practices and the government’s surveillance powers. For years afterward, virtually any sizeable explosion, crash or act of violence seemed to raise a dire question: “Is it terrorism?” Some ideological violence and plots did follow, though federal officials and the public have lately become increasingly concerned with threats from domestic extremists after years of focusing on international terror groups in the wake of 9/11.
New York faced questions early on about whether it could ever recover from the blow to its financial hub and restore a feeling of safety among the crowds and skyscrapers. New Yorkers ultimately rebuilt a more populous and prosperous city but had to reckon
with the tactics of an empowered post-9/11 police department and a widened gap between haves and have-nots.
A “war on terror” led to invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the longest US war ended last month with a hasty, massive airlift punctuated by a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 American service members and was attributed to a branch of the Islamic State extremist group. The US is now concerned that al-Qaeda, the terror network behind 9/11, may regroup in Afghanistan, where the flag of the Taliban militant group once again flew over the presidential palace on Saturday.