Sunday, September 11, 2005

9-11-01, We Must Never Forget

It was a sunny September morning. In one sense, it seems like it was a lifetime ago; in another, it's hard to believe four years have already passed. September 11, 2001, saw the arrival on U.S. soil the long-brewing war between civilized free societies and a radical Islamofascism seeking to return the world to the Dark Ages.

There are certain events in our lives that are burned so deeply into our memories that we will never forget where we were or what we were doing. I was on my way to class that day, comparative politics and political theory. I had stayed up late the night before to finish a short paper for the comparative politics class. I had only enough time for a quick shower before I left my apartment, so no breakfast or quick check of the morning news.

I got in the car, started my usual 15 minute drive to campus, and turned on the radio. It was 9:49 AM. Instead of the usual music, I heard the very somber voice of Peter Jennings broadcasting. Instantly, before hearing what exactly was happening, I knew something very, very terrible had happened. Within those 15 minutes, I would learn that jets had crashed into the Pentagon, both towers of the World Trade Center and somewhere in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, not far from Morgantown. Instantly, I knew: America was under attack and the world in which we live will change forever.

Normally, the only eerie thoughts accompanying my morning commutes to class were those I had as I walked by the ruins of the house at 723 College Avenue--directly across the street from my dorm room the prior year--that was torched a few weeks before along with one of its occupants and the Fire Marshal's Arson Hotline posters posted along the street. However, that day a chill pulsated from head to toe and stood straight every hair on my body--a chill that returns every time I think of what happened that day.

At 11:30 my second and final class of the day, political theory began. Dr. Whisker walked into the room and broke the news that the Twin Towers had both collapsed. The class had a discussion about moments that define a generation. Then we left early. Getting ahead of the curve, I stopped and topped off my gas tank on the way home, fearing what thankfully did not follow.

The images of that day were burned into our minds forever, though they have largely disappeared from the mainstream media as if they've been placed under seal. We're reminded daily of the 1,800 or so brave American soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the Iraqi theater of the War on Terror that we officially entered that day. The Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and that field in Somerset County--where over 3,000 civilians became the first casualties on U.S. soil--have all disappeared from our televisions and most newspapers.

On September 11, 2001, we finally saw that we were at war--a war that began long ago but which we saw only as a series of crimes rather than a war. For a time, we were sure the politics would be cast aside for the national interest. From many on the other side of aisle, we heard: Thank God George W. Bush is our President. We were determined to engage the enemy on their soil and defeat them so the likes of what happened on that sunny September morning four years ago would never again visit American soil. The terrorists can be effective only when they have a safe haven and plentiful support. The war we now fight ensures those evildoers who wish to wage their war on our way of life spend their time on the run rather than in comfort planning their next attacks from within a country like Taliban Afghanistan. While our attackers on that day were al Qaeda terrorists who received their safe haven from the Taliban, our war against these forces of evil must extend to every international terrorist group who wishes us ill and those who give them aid & comfort.

We will always remember and must never forget what we saw and what we felt. The lack of a subsequent terrorist attack on U.S. soil has not been by accident. We must remain vigilant and must keep taking the war to those who seek to wage war on us. As Winston Churchill said in England's darkest hours of World War II, "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."