They say as people get older, they get wiser. I don’t think so. There are many wise young people and too many old fools.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

I also don’t see politicians getting wiser as they age. They callous over. They spin lies. They believe their own fairy-tale views of the world.

Proof of that is last month’s tragic, terrifying, deadly, embarrassing and supremely boneheaded pullout from Afghanistan. Our president proved what conservatives had been saying about him prior to, during and since the election: He is a fool, certainly not to be trusted with major decisions.

But one thing Biden has done right with his hasty and disorderly withdrawal from the country known as the “Destroyer of Empires” is to remind all Americans of how good we’ve had it, for about 20 years now, with keeping terrorists from our shores. By waging war abroad with Islamic extremists, we kept them from attacking here.

That is over now.

With the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan – an essentially lawless region where terrorists have for decades made their base of operations, including Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – we can expect terror once again to come here. The question is when, not if.

If you don’t believe it can happen, transport yourself exactly two decades in the past. If you were alive, try to remember how you felt around 9 a.m. on that perfectly sunny and comfortably warm second Tuesday morning in September 2001. If you weren’t, watch a documentary, or better yet, buy a book to tell you what it was like. It was, of course, the day NYC’s Twin Towers were destroyed and and the Pentagon was heavily damaged by Muslim extremists.

My favorite book on the subject, “Inside 9-11, What Really Happened,” was written by the reporters, writers and editors of Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, in late 2001. My yellowing copy is a fast-moving timeline charting the people and events leading up to Sept. 11, as well as the day itself, in excruciating detail.

While the work is monumental in scope and the writers performed yeoman’s work in crafting such an all-encompassing and authoritative early draft of history, the amazing part about the book for Mainers is that it makes you realize Sept. 11 kicked off right here where we live.

Not five pages in are you confronted with how Portland, South Portland and Scarborough played roles in two of the most important attackers’ last-night-on-earth activities.

Mohamed Atta – the ringleader of the 19 Al Qaeda terrorists who, altogether, commandeered and piloted four commercial aircraft and their passengers to their doom on Sept. 11 – is likely the only Sept. 11 terrorist many of us can remember by name and whose face, as captured by the security camera at the Portland International Jetport’s boarding gate, we’ll never forget.

He and fellow operative Abdulaziz Alomari stayed overnight in the Maine Mall area of South Portland after driving from Boston the day before, rose early on Sept. 11 and then flew inconspicuously in a 19-seat, propeller-driven Beech 1900 plane from the Jetport to Boston’s Logan airport.

The book tells you where they slept (Comfort Inn on Maine Mall Road), where they ate their last dinner (Pizza Hut), where they withdrew money at two ATMs (near Pizzeria Uno) and where they shopped (Walmart in Scarborough). Some of their haunts are now demolished; some are still standing.

Whenever I drive past the Comfort Inn, I think of the two terrorists sleeping their last winks in the building. I commute by it twice daily and sometimes on the weekend, and I’m not lying when I say I still think of the terrorists almost every time I pass.

The Comfort Inn is easily visible from the highway. Sometimes I wish it weren’t because then I wouldn’t have to think about it. But maybe it’s good that the hotel is so visible because it serves as a constant reminder that the most diabolical and most consequential act of terror in world history started right here in supposedly peaceful Portland, Maine.

And if it happened here, it can happen anywhere.

On the 20th anniversary of the sad and sobering day, it’s good to remember not only Portland’s role in Sept. 11’s events but also how we can’t be lulled into thinking it can never happen again.

Those who think terror is a thing of the past should visit the Maine Mall area and check out the physical places where long-since-dead evil men once shopped, ate and slept the night before they unleashed the whirlwind in which we are still being tossed. Biden, who has seemingly forgotten that terror can happen here, should have visited before making his ill-conceived decisions.

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