Friday, September 11, 2015

A few thoughts on the 14th anniversary of 9/11

As the second tower collapsed I was on the phone with my wife, doing my best to make some sense of the tragedy. I suggested that perhaps the raw brutality of terrorism might finally be exposed and universally condemned by the civilized countries of the world. Perhaps we could all unite against such savagery. And in the first few weeks, the civilized peoples of the world did unite in sorrow, empathy and resolve.

How quickly that unity dissolved. Barely had the memorial services ended before the political opportunists found traction. Tentatively at first, afraid to step too far (cowards are never bold). Before long, the war on terror became yet another opportunity to demonize one’s political opponents.

Indeed, all the policies that have kept us safe for 14 years were roundly condemned as unconstitutional and overly severe. The Patriot Act was disingenuously depicted as an attempt to usurp American rights. The President’s own counsel was brought up for disbarment for rendering an opinion. President Bush and all of his anti-terror policies were ruthlessly vilified. Both Kerry and Obama campaigned against them.

And what turns out to be no surprise at all, all of the Bush policies have been retained by the man who campaigned against them.

The turning point of that day came with the passengers of flight 93, citizens that raised up to an incredible challenge when they knew what they were facing. Their courage and love for their country and their fellow citizens is inspiring and the true fabric of who we are, 40 people (33 passengers and 7 crew members) that on 9/11 morning took a plane in their course of their normal daily lives and in a fraction of a second they found themselves confronted by an enemy that wants to destroy us.

They raised from being just a citizen to be the ones that put their lives on the line to save our institution of government by laying down their own lives so the rest of us could live. It is our duty to honor their sacrifice by ensuring that we protect our country in the same fashion against those who wish to destroy our country foreign and domestic, not doing so will render their sacrifice meaningless.

Their message is clear in the words of Todd Beamer “Lets Roll.”

The horror of that day is impossible to forget and imperative to remember. Today I will put aside my partisanship and political worries and try to focus on the true power of good which, God willing, will always triumph over evil.

The victims, their families, the first responders and the leaders who were trying to make the right decisions under hellish circumstances, deserve that from me as much as they deserve my prayers and heartfelt gratitude.

We saw the face of true evil that day, should anyone ever doubt it exists, but more importantly for our future, we saw magnificent heroism and sacrifice from police, firefighters, and ordinary citizens–heroism that our men and women in the military have continued to display every day since as they work mightily to keep us safe, as we face the same evil and always will. Heroism that humbles me.

Today I will pause and reflect that immediately after 9/11, American flags flew as they never had before and the most comforting songs were the “Star Bangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

Fourteen years’ perspective has made me realize that no matter how some now try to sanitize and alter 9/11 with politically correct “memos” on how to observe the day– which I don’t need or want– no one will ever take away or alter what I saw and what I felt on that terrible day.

Eventually the anger, the fear, and the horror gave way to a realization that as imperfect as we are as a people and a nation, when it really matters, when things are their absolute darkest, we can rise to the occasion; we can unite; we can triumph.

Fourteen years later a memorial and new, beautiful buildings are rising out of the ashes of that day. That very fact speaks to the best that is in all of us.

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