This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. To mark the occasion, former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy spoke to former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean on Sunday night about his experience co-chairing the 9/11 commission.
Gowdy opened his Fox News show by recalling his own experiences surrounding 9/11, saying that while the attacks themselves were surreal, they also brought about a sense of unity.
“Death and grief and pain can bring clarity about what’s important in life and precisely what it is we are willing to fight to preserve and from that can come unity,” Gowdy said. “Death and grief and pain can be unified.”
Gowdy then brought on Kean to discuss his memories of 9/11 and of being asked to co-chair the 9/11 commission.
“Most vivid memory is when the president asked me to do it. Henry Kissinger had been asked originally and he could not do it because of his plans,” Kean said. “So I was the second choice and he called and asked if I would share the commission. And I felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I hadn’t expected the call.”
“I’d been out of politics for a while, but when the president of the United States in a time of national emergency asks you to do something, you don’t think about it,” he added. “I didn’t think about it twice. You just say yes and try to deal with it afterwards.”
When asked what he wants Americans to remember 20 years after 9/11, Kean said he would like them to remember “why we went into Afghanistan” in the first place.
“We need to remember at the moment why we went into Afghanistan to begin with,” Kean said. “Because that’s where the terror came from, that’s where bin Laden trained the fighters, that’s where all the planning originated, and that’s where the attack came from. We were in Afghanistan because we asked the Taliban to give up Bin Laden and stop supporting him. They said no.”
“Now we got to look at Afghanistan,” he continued. “Is that again going to be a breeding ground for terrorists? Because if it becomes a breeding ground for terrorists again, if Al-Qaeda or ISIS or any of those planning attacks against the homeland again, we’re going to have to send troops back in. There’s no question about it.”
Gowdy then asked Kean, “Surely, there had to be another purpose of going into Afghanistan other than killing Osama bin Laden. As you said, it’s been a breeding ground for terrorism. Has that changed over the last 20 years?”
“We don’t know that yet,” Kean responded. “No question that we know ISIS is there and we know Al-Qaeda is still there. But whether or not they have breeding grounds and they will have new attacks on the homeland, we don’t know that yet.”
Gowdy concluded the segment by asking if there is “any hope in recapturing the environment in our country” of unity that America experienced in the wake of 9/11.
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“It seems to be a little difficult, but remember the couple of things we had on the commission,” Kean said. “We were all, in a sense, ex-politicians. None of us were running for office anymore. That was one thing. Second, there was an atmosphere of getting to the bottom of it. And the families of 9/11 were an incredible force. They were the wind in our sails, and those families supported us every step of the way.”
“I think it was the last major thing in this country where we had five Republicans and five Democrats agree on an anonymous report that the United States Congress implemented, and we’re safer in this country because of it,” he added.
While the 9/11 attacks themselves were horrific, the sense of unity that came about afterwards in this country was truly unforgettable. If only we could get some of that unity back in America today, but given how divided we are as a nation these days, that likely won’t be happening anytime soon.