A video about 9/11 produced by Idaho Falls Marketing Agency Porter Pro Media last year. | Photo and video courtesy Porter Pro Media
IDAHO FALLS — As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks approaches, many locals are reflecting on the 20-year war it sparked in Afghanistan, and more recently the chaos of withdrawing American troops and citizens.
It’s being called America’s longest war and an estimated 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan, although some pundits and rescue groups say the number is much greater. Fox News reports President Biden has yet to respond to a group of 26 Republican senators demanding he provide the exact number of people still remaining in Afghanistan.
Amid the contentious political rivalry ensuing in the 10 days since the withdrawal was completed, some locals want to make sure the terror attacks that resulted in the war are not forgotten.
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Pastor Tim Rupp in Idaho Falls is one of them, and he is helping to organize a memorial event this weekend in conjunction with 9/11. He tells EastIdahoNews.com he was disheartened by the recent loss of 13 U.S. military members in Kabul and how the withdrawal itself was carried out.
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“We’re keeping (those affected by this) in our prayers and those who are trying to negotiate and rescue our citizens and those who support our country,” Rupp says.
Another local man distressed by the way the war ended is Mo Elabed, a Muslim living in eastern Idaho.
He says the world shouldn’t be so quick to judge Islam because of the actions of the Taliban. Elabed says the Taliban are a terrorist organization whose beliefs stand in direct opposition to the religion he knows and loves.
“Islam means peace,” says Elabed. “You can’t depict the whole Muslim world based on the actions of the Taliban and the way they rule and operate. I don’t agree with their views and ideology. I am against oppression. We don’t oppress our women. I think it’s very important that they have their freedoms, equality and education.”
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The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Al-Qaida orchestrated the attack while sheltering under Taliban rule. An ambitious U.S.-led effort to invest billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s future by implementing a Western-style government eventually allowed women, who had largely been confined to their homes, to have access to education and assume more prominent roles in public life.
In the weeks leading up to the American withdrawal, the Islamic extremist group quickly seized control of at least three cities and continued its takeover at a rapid pace. It is now the de facto government in Afghanistan. Elabed says all attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and give them credibility as a legitimate governing body is a serious mistake.
A group of Muslims meeting for a weekly prayer service at the Idaho Falls Community Center in March 2019. Mo Elabed is on the far left closest to the wall. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
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He fears the accomplishments in Afghanistan resulting from U.S. involvement are now lost and says the Taliban takeover could have serious repercussions for years to come.
“We’ve spent 20 years over there trying to better their lives and add a modern way of living there. We made a lot of sacrifices for Afghanistan, and to see (how everything has played out in the last few weeks) is disappointing. It seems like the clocks are turning back,” he says.
Elabed says 9/11 was a day “we will never forget,” not just for the tragic loss of American lives but also because of how Americans united in prayer and service to their fellowmen.
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On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Rupp is hoping to reignite those same feelings of unity in a memorial event focused on remembering that day and paying tribute to local military members and first responders.
On Saturday, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Falls Police Department and the Idaho National Guard will be at Watersprings from 6 to 7 p.m. to meet and greet members of the community. A prayer service at 7 p.m. will include a posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, along with patriotic music and a video montage of the events that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
“My youngest daughter is 20 years old. She was just an infant at the time. So, we just want to make sure we don’t forget the attack on our country and we want to make sure we thank and honor our first responders and our military today that are continuing to keep us safe,” Rupp says.
Rupp will provide a few remarks centered around the theme “Why bad things happen to good people.” He’ll be focusing on verses 1 to 5 in Luke 13.
Pastor Ty Orr will conclude the event with a prayer.
Flyer courtesy Tim Rupp
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