Ok, so today I am going to step way outside the comfort zone of this blog, but I think it is entirely appropirate. Today, my wife mentioned that it bothered her how no one seems to remember 9-11. Well, it is sad, but too often true. However, I not only remember, but this is still something I feel very strongly about and still gets me very emotional. Like many historic events, everyone has a story. Mine was, it was my senior year of High School, and I was in first period band. First period was optional, so most students didn't have one. When I got out, I learned from friends what had happened, but of course much of it was rumors. Within an hour, my dad got me from the school, which was giving out "sick passes" to parents who wanted their kids to be home. Considering the school was next to a major Navy base, it was probably a good idea. When I got home, I learned the real story as we prepared for worst case scenarios. Turns out, if I had turned on the television before walkign out the door of my house that morning, I would have watched the second plane hit live (remember this is West Coast time.) Since then I check the news when I get up every morning. Today, the videos still give me chills, remembering in 1996 when my dad and I went to New York and were on top of the World Trade Center. A lot of people who had never experienced the towers never quite understood.
Remember when the first plane hit, and people thought it was an accident.
Then the second hit, on live television, making clear that this was no accident. In a very short time, the symbol of our nation's economic and social power was nothing more than a pile of burning rubble. And over 3,000 innocent people had been taken down with them.
They struck at the Pentagon, the ultimate symbol of our military strength since it was built in World War 2. Though it did not receive the media attention that the towers did, this was a stab in the heart of the nation's military members, who saw their house up in flames and their comrades in arms killed. It was Pearl Harbor all over again.
Then another plane mysteriously disapeared, crashing in a field in rural Pennsylvania. It became apparent that the passengers, learning they were about to become victims of a suicide crash into a national icon, took matters into their own hands, and throught their sacrifice won the first battle in the War on Terror.
Remember in the days that followed, whn everyone had American Flags? They were on houses, cars, clothing, buildings, stadiums. People made giant human flags and held vigils in support of the victims. I remember the first funeral following the attacks was for the Fire Department Chaplain. He, like his fellow police and fire firghters, had risked his life as the towers burned. He was killed when the towers fell, as he comforted the injured who could not make it away.
For days, even weeks, the nation wept together as the Chaplian and many more who follwed him were remembered and laid to rest. There were so many heroes that day, and so many were lost. People talk about sports heroes, and movie stars, and they follow American Idol more than most elections. No, these men are our nation's true heores. They risk everything everyday to protect and save ordinary citizens. No tabloids care about them, you won't find their poster on a teenager's wall, yet they continue to do their duty.
Remember how we AS AMERICANS stood behind the man who stood up to the terrorists? Just as everyone was donning their American Flag gear, we likewise rallied in finding those responsible for the acts. Much progress has been made in this war, but much is left to be done. Many of the terrorists have been caught, but many are still in hiding in a number of countries. It is sad to see how many people suddenly turned when no weapons or "evidence" was found in Iraq, and the "quick easy war" turned into a quagmire of a civil war. Suddenly polls dropped, and people began protesting what was seen as unnecesary. They forget many things including, Sadaam Hussein DID have weapons of mass destruction at one point. Most were destroyed before or during the first Gulf War, but the idea that he could have them again was certainly not far fetched. He also defied inspectors and was a known supporter of terrorists. Those who don't belive this need only look at the sudden surge of violence in Afghanistan once Iraq got quiet a few months ago. Al Quida was there, then left and returned to Afghanistan. This is the battle we face now.
My point is not political sympathy or to be an apologetic. I simply want to make the statement that we are Americans. On 9-11 we were attacked, and we must ensure this does not happen again. People say we should stop interfereing with other countries and just keep to ourselves. That is much easier said than done. To begin with we would abandon our numerous allies who, while they scoff and criticize us, nonetheless know that if they are ever in trouble we will protect them. We would have to lock down our country to a nearly fascist level. No one could enter or leave, in order to prevent terrorists or other enemies from coming into the country. And history is full of examples of countries that "kept to themselves". They get conquered by countries that don't. Thomas Jefferson said that "the man who turns his gun into a plow will plow for the man who does not." His statement is as true now as it was 200 years ago. We are a country of free people, and that is something that is in constant jeopardy. We are not empire building or bullying, we are trying to protect our way of life. And just as 230 years ago men volunteered to leave their homes and families in order to protect them, the same is true now. We have an all volunteer military. I volunteered. It sickens me to see people who say "I just joined to go to college, I don't really want to fight." That is BS and is not a reason to join the military. You should join the military only if you value your freedom and want to defend and if needbe die for it. The majority of the men and women over in Iraq and Afghanistan right now are these people. They knew what they signed up for and are proud to do it. If I went out tommorow and something happened where my ship did not make it back, I want my family to know that is the price of freedom. I have no regrets and will not if that happens. So now I ask you, consider all these things. Instead of insulting the soldier's Commander in Chief, why don't go write a letter the lonely soldier who may only want a small reminder of what he is fighting for. Instead of wondering why the American flag is in another country, why don't you try saluting it in memory of those who died to put it there? Instead of counting the bodies of the volunteer soldiers who are killed in Iraq, try counting the innocent victims of the 9-11 attacks that those soldiers helped ensure do not happen again. In closing, I dedicate this to all of the active duty and military veterans, as well as our nation's fire, police, and EMS forces. All of those who sacrifice to protect our freedoms and our lives. And to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, whose only memory is now a small flag on a grave. We thank you. And to all the victims of 9-11 and terrorism throughout the world, you ARE NOT forgotten.