There is hardly a man, woman or child who was alive on 9/11/01 who doesn't remember the horror of that day -- knowing that fighter pilots patrolled the skies of our capitol, seeing the footage of people jumping from the World Trade Center, learning about the existence of a place known as Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and hearing about the terrible but brave final moments of the ordinary Americans aboard three doomed jetliners. Across the U.S., we watched and prayed, filled with grief and impotent anger, and then sprang into action giving blood, praying, trying to help our neighbors.
9/11/01 was the day that America lost her innocence
-- the confident belief that, although bad things might happen and our soldiers might die heroically on distant shores, our homeland was secure, and our lives immune from the kind of daily terror that afflicts so many peoples across the world. As we remember, let us vow do to whatever it takes so that we never again see our country so wounded, and Americans wondering, with stoicism but also some fear, when the next shoe would drop.
The best, and really, the only way properly to honor the past and those who were lost is renew the resolution forged in the difficult days after 9/11/01 -- that we would never again permit terrorists to decide that it's possible and virtually costless to try to bring death and destruction to American shores. Since 9/11, we've seen wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the former vastly more popular than the latter, but both undertaken in order to ensure that Americans cannot be threatened by weapons of mass destruction, nor held hostage by those who want nothing more than to frighten us into submission to their hateful and totalitarian aims.
Make no mistake -- the kind of people who wounded us on 9/11 don't see the war in Iraq as separate from the war in Afghanistan or the war against Hezbollah
. They are engaged in a war against America, a war they think they can win because they believe both that we have become too soft, too cowardly to bring the fight to them, and to maintain the commitment to seeing it through.
Are they right? I don't believe so. Americans are a gentle people, but firm when roused to anger. They are not quitters, especially when they understand that they are fighting a just war, and one that must be won.
As Ronald Reagan once pointed out, our national anthem is the only one that ends with a question: Does the Star Spangled Banner still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Five years after the attack on America, whatever our flaws, whatever the missteps, tragedies and mistakes that have followed our efforts to ensure that another 9/11 never wracks American shores, almost all Americans stand united in the determination to do what must be done to keep our country free and her citizens secure.
God bless all the innocents lost on 9/11/01, their families, and all those who ministered to them. God bless every member of the military who has sacrified so much to keep us safe, and the families that support them. God bless America.