It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since September 11th.
In some respects, it seems like it just happened, and sometimes it seems like a generation ago. Every American has a different story from the day we watched, in real time, hijacked airplanes being flown into the World Trade Center, and then the Pentagon. We felt then — and know now — that the tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed America forever, ushering in the new reality of radical Islamist terrorism.
But, September 11th also showed Americans a level of service and sacrifice that many had never seen before. We saw firefighters and police officers running into burning infernos to save men and women they had never met, knowing they might not see their families again. We learned that our fellow citizens stormed an airline cockpit to deprive the terrorists of an opportunity to kill more Americans, knowing their ultimate fate was sealed as they acted. We witnessed Americans everywhere lining up to donate blood, or show up to help in any way they could. It wasn’t people in just red states or blue states, male or female, young or old. Ultimately, what was intended to divide us through fear, brought us – all of us – together. We witnessed unspeakable evil, but we collectively responded with the best of America.
The lessons of September 11th must stay with us if we want to protect our children and grandchildren from the brutality of those who hate us for our values, faith, and freedom. As a senior officer on staff at the U.S. Special Operations Command just prior to that fateful day, I watched our national leaders’, our intelligence agencies’, and our military’s response to the attacks. So, I can tell you with certainty that even as you read this, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies, are working diligently to prevent other credible terrorist plots. The minds of terrorists are filled with hatred and schemes to perpetrate violence. They cannot – and will not – prevail.
History has demonstrated that Americans can accomplish anything. We invented the combustion engine, the automobile, powered flight, the light bulb, saved the world from tyranny, and put the first man on the moon. When challenges have confronted us, we’ve met and overcome them. We will do so again. America is built on a foundation of sacrifice, service, faith, and freedom. That foundation can be shaken, but it won’t fall.
It’s also important to recognize and thank those who have stepped up to answer the call, and served over the past decade and a half to protect our country – a new generation of heroes.
On the 15th anniversary of those tragic events in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, we recall the great loss we experienced as a country on that fateful day. While it’s as important today as ever that we remember, let us resolve to look forward and address the challenges ahead with the spirit of unity that we all woke up with on September 12, 2001, and the weeks that followed. In my view, that’s the best way to honor those we lost.