Patriot Day 2004
September 11, 2004 5:20 pm
(This one’s long, but I hope you take the time to read it and think…)
Three years ago, our country was attacked. It was not the first terrorist attack on our interests, or even the first attack on our own soil. But three years ago was, by far, the most successful (from the terrorists’ point of view) attack on us yet. Over 2,500 innocent Americans lost their lives over the span of a few hours. Looking back, the fact that this number is so much lower than it could be (around 100,000 people were employed in the two WTC towers) is due to the grace of God, and the heroic efforts of firemen and policemen who helped thousands of folks flee to safety after the towers and the Pentagon were hit. Still, the fact remains that we were attacked on our own soil, and that attack resulted in a large loss of life.
Sit back from the computer for a minute or two and think back to where you were, and the thoughts that went through your mind that Tuesday morning. I remember very vividly where I was. A co-worker said “someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center!” It clicked for me right away, although it took some time to accept it - with all the talk about it being an accident, I didn’t buy that. Moments later, as we all watched on our IPTV windows, we saw the second plane hit. All the talk of an accident evaporated in an instant - we were under attack. More bad news - another one hit the Pentagon - was there an explosion outside the State Department? - a plane went down in Pennsylvania - FAA grounds all flights - international flights are turned back. We went to FPCON Delta, the post-attack posture under which every vehicle coming on and off base is searched, and, for a time, no traffic is allowed on or off base.
I also remember clearly that all these things weren’t what was foremost in my mind. My oldest child was going to school only during the mornings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so they weren’t gone when it happened. I live on base, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to leave the base, and neither would my family. I was still concerned for them, though - what if our base is on the target list? At this point, we didn’t know nearly as much about al-Qaeda as we do now. I came home and just held my wife, then my kids. My second child was barely over 1, so he was pretty much oblivious; but my 2 1/2-year-old (who even then was very bright) couldn’t understand why they would fly those planes into those buildings. He also didn’t understand why mom and dad were crying, or near tears, the whole time.
I’m going to link that amazing site that’s linked at the bottom of the page - never forget what happened that day. Since that day, we’ve engaged in two major theater wars - one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Despite warnings of quagmires the likes of which we haven’t seen since Vietnam, we have been successful in both these operations, installing democracy and freedom into two areas of the world that desperately need it. During that time, we’ve lost 1,000 combined in those two theaters. In Vietnam, that number was over 58,000. (source: DoD) It’s a tribute to our men and women in uniform who have shown ceaseless dedication to their country, and to the development and use of the best tools of war on the planet. Although some may classify me in that category, as stateside support, the only thing I’ve sacrificed for this war is a few longer hours. I am deeply grateful to my comrades in arms who are out there in the desert, on the lines, loading bombs, driving patrols, doing everything they can to keep us free and return home to their families.
This is the reason it is so important to have a leader in this country who is not afraid to stand up to terrorists. When the WTC was attacked the first time in 1993, we did nothing. When the Kenyan embassies were bombed, we did nothing. When the USS Cole was bombed, we did nothing. Could we not see this coming? When I was in school, I was told that studying history was important, because “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I believe that. We’ve seen what inaction brings, and we cannot afford inaction any more, not even if it’s cloaked in the term “diplomacy.” Since 9/11/01, al-Qaeda has struck in Bali, Madrid, and most recently, in Russia, as well as cooperating with Hezbollah in bringing terrorism to Israel.
Americans are, collectively, the most kind-hearted people in the world. We recognize the true threat that lies before us, and we are choosing to take the fight to them. I have a really hard time not questioning the intelligence of someone who thinks we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a dictator who used instant execution, limb removal, and rape as methods of governmental punishment. He used WMD on his own people in the north, and was completely uncooperative with United Nations inspectors who were verifying that he had stopped production. And the “there were no WMDs” crowd doesn’t seem to consider enough Sarin gas to kill 60,000, or a large stash of low-enriched unranium, to be weapons of mass destruction. I say to those folks, how would like for what we’ve found to be detonated or released in your neighborhood? Would it become a WMD then?
So, we’ve got a dictator, who rapes, mutilates, and kills his own people, who has taken a hit out on a sitting United States President, and who is sympathetic to terrorists. Even the most obtuse among us should be able to see that we do not need that man in possession of WMDs, or even parts that can be made into such. Russia is our ally, and even they have some suitcase nukes they can’t find. How much more easily would it be for nuclear or chemical weapons to find their way into terrorists’ hands if the leadership of the country just hands it to them?
During the Republican National Convention, just after President Bush’s speech, I listed to the talking heads dissect it. (I think the channel was on CBS.) The folks there said that the parts of the speech that dealt with domestic issues got applause, but with nowhere near the passion of the applause in the national defense portion. I think that’s because the vast majority of Republicans (and a lot of Democrats, which is why I predict Bush will roll in November) know that without a secure national defense, domestic programs are meaningless. You may have seen this, but I’m posting it here in case you haven’t. Stephen Ambrose said “It is the soldier, not the poet, who gives us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the reporter, who gives us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us freedom to protest. It is the soldier who serves beneath the flag, who salutes the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives the demonstrator the right to burn the flag.”
So, on this Patriot Day 2004, remember the lives of those whose crime was only that they got to work early that morning. Remember the 1,000+ defenders of freedom who have lost their lives while ensuring that anything like 9/11 never happens again. Remember the sons and daughters who will be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, for the first time, without their mom or dad. Remember the spouses, who have lost a life partner and best friend. Thank the Lord that you live in a country that does not let these acts of aggression stand, and thank the Lord that George W. Bush made the tough decision to defend our nation. May God bless this great nation.