Coronavirus Shouldn’t Diminish 9/11 or America’s Wars

Other than the heroism of our military, medical professionals and first responders, the increasingly frequent comparisons between the COVID-19 and war on terror death tolls are apples and oranges.

The 9/11 "Tribute in Light" as seen from New Jersey's Liberty State Park, on September 11, 2006, the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

By Tom Sileo Published on April 24, 2020

The coronavirus crisis has been a terrible time for our country. As of this writing, more than 48,000 Americans have succumbed to COVID-19, with the death toll tragically rising by the hour. When history books are written, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as a dark period for America and the world.

I have called the fight against COVID-19 a “war” since service members, first responders, medical professionals and so many other brave Americans are courageously risking their lives to kill the virus. At the same time, I’m puzzled as to why some are comparing the coronavirus death toll to 9/11 and other wars of the past and present.

While there’s nothing wrong with comparing the heroism of those on the coronavirus front lines to the heroes of 9/11, some are clearly drawing contrasts between the COVID-19 death toll and the terror attacks for political purposes.

To state the obvious, COVID-19 is a deadly virus. 9/11 was a terrorist attack involving four hijacked planes that crashed into three landmark buildings and a Pennsylvania field in a 90-minute span. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in a shocking series of events that unfolded on live television. It was an intentional assault on American institutions and innocent civilians by radical Islamic terrorists who hated our country and western society.

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Another important aspect of 9/11 was what came next. Each of the four books I’ve co-authored, along with hundreds of columns and blog posts, have been about selfless young Americans inspired to serve largely because of 9/11. From that fall 2001 day to this very moment, the brave men and women of our military have been at war in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.

I asked a Gold Star brother how he felt about comparisons such as these. He did not hold back in his response.

“I think when one hears media using your lost loved ones as mere statistics for the sake of political gain, watch out,” he said.  “There is no boundary that some journalists won’t cross. It angers me.”

While not trying to speak for all Gold Star family members, the fact that even one grieving brother is experiencing further pain because of the irresponsible words of some pundits should give pause to anyone amplifying hyper-partisanship during a time of crisis.

Imagine how a Nazi concentration camp survivor or family member might feel if someone referred to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic as “ten Holocausts.” The visceral emotional response might be similar to what I heard from the Gold Star brother. The memory of those who died as a result of genocide, terrorism or war shouldn’t be used to further any political agenda – liberal, conservative or otherwise.

Like all wars, each coronavirus victim has a story. Instead of using their tragic deaths to divide us, we who write should be busy helping tell the stories of warriors like U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker and New Jersey National Guard Capt. Douglas Hickok, who succumbed to COVID-19 while serving in uniform. Hundreds of first responders, police officers, doctors and nurses have also lost their lives while working to save others.

Two such heroes are John Redd and Idris Bey. Both were FDNY EMTs who died of COVID-19 complications during the past week. The fallen first responders also helped with rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after the Twin Towers collapsed.

Neither of these 9/11 and coronavirus crisis heroes were numbers on a chart. They were selfless Americans who will always be remembered by their families, friends, co-workers, city and country.

America is stronger than the partisans trying to tear it apart. Instead of looking to agenda-driven journalists and politicians to lead us out of the darkness, let us instead rely on our freedom, family, faith and the enduring memories of those who sacrificed everything in defense of these sacred ideals.


COVID-19 is causing massive disruptions in life. The Stream’s parent organization, LIFE Outreach International, is helping send a first wave of help.

LIFE’s local mission partners are already distributing thousands of surgical masks, gloves and other sanitary supplies to first responders, hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, other partners have focused on distributing as many meals as possible to help those who need food.

You can help with these efforts. Click here to donate.


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of 8 Seconds of CourageBrothers ForeverFire in My Eyes and the forthcoming Three Wise Men. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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