Even with the passage of time, the images remain vivid: jets crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field; fireballs exploding in the sky over Manhattan; bodies hitting the pavement after leaping or falling from the towers; heroes rushing into buildings others were desperate to flee; the collapse, the horror. And it all started as just another ordinary sky-blue Tuesday in September.
Seven years after hijacked commercial aircraft were turned into weapons of war, "9/11" has taken its place alongside the day JFK was murdered, the Challenger explosion and other shared national tragedies - horrible to remember, impossible to forget.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing since that day in September 2001 is what has not happened again.
No additional attacks on American soil. No American city obliterated by a suitcase nuke. No bombs detonated in American ports. No mass killings. Nothing. Sept. 11 will mark 2,557 days without an incident, and counting.
Is this not perhaps the most lasting legacy of a certain incumbent president, known to his Republican friends as He Who Must Not Be Named?
Democrats were not afraid to invoke this Dark Lord many times during their convention, but Republicans remain filled with fear at the mere mention of his name.
History may yet give You Know Who his due.
It was, after all, during the reign of the Dark Lord that America recognized international terrorism for what it is: an act of war.
Even moose-hunting, pistol-packing, mother-of-five Sarah Palin gets it.
"Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America," she told the GOP faithful in St. Paul, and Barack Obama is "worried that someone won't read them their rights?" The crowd roared.
Impeached President Bill Clinton (who, by the way, had an honored speaking role at the Democrat's convention) had opportunities to take out (as in "kill") bin Laden in 1997, 1998 and 1999. He flinched every time. Too bad the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, didn't have her hand on the trigger in those days.
Fact is, since the attacks of 9/11, terrorists have not been able to inflict catastrophic harm on America or anything approaching the scope and destruction of 9/11. For that, we owe He Who Must Not Be Named our respect, if not our gratitude.
The first and most important duty of any president is to protect the country from harm in an often hostile world.
John F. Kennedy, unlike his modern-day Democratic descendants, understood the uniquely important role America plays in the defense of freedom, not just at home, but around the world. As he said in his 1961 inaugural speech:
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Say what? This guy was a Democrat?
But Kennedy didn't stop there. Echoing Thomas Jefferson's words from the Declaration of Independence, he said: "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."
Hand of God? You mean, not from the government?!
Imagine, if you can, any Democrat today vowing to "pay any price, bear any burden...to assure the survival of liberty," or invoking rights that derive "from the hand of God."
To be sure, all is not well right now in America. The extent to which the Dark Lord has focused first and foremost on keeping us safe has left other issues neglected. We currently have no coherent national energy policy; the recent hostile federal takeover of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac gives shocking indication of just how close U.S. financial markets were to total collapse; American families struggle with high energy and food prices; and millions of illegal immigrants have swept across open borders while President You Know Who was casting his gaze across oceans.
Consequently, we'll be playing catch up for a while. But the true beauty of America lies in the ingenuity and resourcefulness of its people, who have shown time and again that, when their backs are up against the wall, they will do the improbable and prevail.
One of the best lines in Barack Obama's acceptance speech was: "John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, but he won't even go to the cave where he lives."
It may yet fall to John McCain to go to this cave, and I'm betting he won't show up to read bin Laden his Miranda rights or come armed with ACLU attorneys.
Getting bin Laden may turn out to be the great unfinished task of You Know Who's presidency. But JFK didn't live to see men on the moon, and FDR didn't live to see the end of World War II. Both men did, however, firmly put America on the path toward achieving these goals while keeping America safe and strong.
So, too, it may be for He Who Must Not Be Named.
Rick Berg is a Madison-area freelance writer and political commentator.