It wasn’t a ‘disaster.’ Hurricanes, tsunami’s, earthquakes and famines are disasters. It wasn’t a ‘tragedy.’ Accidental drownings, poisonings, SIDS, freak accidents….those are tragedies. This was an evil, premeditated attack. The worst, most deadly and devastating attack ever carried off against the United States. And on our own ground – smack in the middle of the greatest city in the world, New York City.
Nearly three thousand souls perished. Not combatants on a battlefield, but average everyday citizens like you and me, starting their days like any other, working to earn a living to feed their families. Along with them were hundreds of valiant firemen and policemen rushing in to the buildings to save lives.
The images of those New Yorkers the next few days wandering the streets around Ground Zero with pictures of their missing loved ones, hoping beyond hope that perhaps it was a simple bump on the head and temporary amnesia that kept them from phoning home to tell them they were okay… These thoughts suck the wind from my soul.
Like most Americans, I was profoundly moved and shaken that fateful morning; and I knew instantly that our lives as Americans were forever changed. The surreal unfolding of events took me from shock to horror…to fury. I remember calling the Marine recruiter the next morning and asking where I go to enlist. He asked a few questions, and then informed me I was too old by two years to join the military. 'But I’m a wonderful hand with a rifle,' I argued, 'versed in everything from pistol to shotgun to rifle to machine gun. I’m your boy (okay I’m not quite a boy), but trust me, you guys want me on your front lines.' The answer remained a polite but firm ‘No thank you, sir’. So I sat helplessly like so many millions of us -- glued to the TV screen, hoping for some positive news, praying something good to come from this horror.
I remember that anger, that blind rage, that boiling fury I held deep in my bowels that day. But when John Nolte asked me to write something about 911…I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I, like so many Americans, had pretty much forgotten that awful day. Oh sure, I remembered the images, the newscasts, …the movie, 'United 93,'…but I really had to struggle to remember what I was going through, what we as a nation were going through on September 11, 2001. And I know I’m not alone.
How can that be? How could we have let one singular event that reshaped an entire foreign policy, altered a national zeitgeist, and changed the very way we view the world…how could we have let that memory dim? Is our selective memory just a survival mechanism that chooses to dwell on the happy and pleasant and let the trauma and terrors of life fade into a merciful fog; like a flesh wound that hardens and clots, then forms a thick, crusty scab, only to fade eventually leaving scarcely a mark?
There are some, of course, who don’t want anyone to remember 9/11. The reasons they would obfuscate the meaning and redirect the focus of the attack are varied and insidious, and they are the topic of a different essay. Here I will simply take a few moments to register my reflections on the real meaning of 9/11.
We have been attacked, we suffered a grievous loss of humanity, and we are at war. Here, in America, we are under assault. We have vicious enemies abroad…and determined enemies here among us. People who want to destroy the America we cherish so dearly, and for whom so many brave souls have made the ultimate sacrifice.
They hate us because we’re rich. They hate us because we’re exceptional. And they hate us most of all…because we’re good. We’re by no means perfect, but more often than not, we do the right thing. We defend innocent life. We oppose tyranny. We offer aid and support to disaster victims. We give in vast abundance, more than any other nation has done since the dawn of time. But most importantly… we offer the world that ‘shining city on a hill’ image that President Regan so famously coined, to serve as the model to liberty-loving people worldwide…and a beacon to draw them nigh.
The Islamic fascists who hate us and wish us ill? They want us to suddenly alter our lifestyles, throw ourselves on our knees, pray to Allah and accept Sharia law. They want us to atone for our past ‘sins’ as a nation and pay penance for the ‘evils’ we have perpetrated upon the world. They want to change America.
As the events of 9/11 taught us…. Not all change is good change. There are many enemies to our great nation – from without and within. They hate America and want to re-fashion it into their concept of utopia.
God grant us the wisdom to tell friend from foe!
Do you hear the pounding of the drum yet? It’s your neighbors, your friends, the grocers, the trucker, the doctors, the businessmen, the students, the citizens of this great country…Americans like you -- speaking out, by the tens of millions, shouting in a unified and deafening, resounding cry… This is our country! This is America, dammit!!
Stand up for what America is. And don’t let anyone sell you what America is not.