On this day 11 years ago the world was changed.
Families were broken, people passed away, others survived, and we all felt the pain of those heartless terrorist attacks. If you lost someone on that day, then I am sorry that you must go through the public pain every year of remembering history’s events.
I’ve toured the FBI building in Washington D.C., and they have a special room dedicated to this day. I was there in June for the second time. Upon entering there is a Star Spangled Banner, an American flag…that was pulled from the wreckage of the twin towers. My heart sinks thinking about walking into that room, knowing it would be there and seeing how dirty, torn, and tattered the flag is. Tears well in my eyes as I write this thinking of the survivors taking that beaten flag and thrusting it high into the air. This flag says that we were knocked down, but Americans always get back up.
Across the room, there are pieces of one of the planes that hit the towers. I touched this twisted steel unemotionally knowing that it played a part in destruction. Across the room there are two murals for the fallen. One of them has the names listed in very small font. Thousands of names. The other has a small thumbnail picture of their face. There are so many faces, and once you lean closer, you can see each and every one of them. They are regular people. Fathers. Mothers. Daughters. Sons. A moustached man with glasses drinking a beer. A black woman with her children. A young, pretty blonde woman. I couldn’t take it, I had to walk away. These were normal people who were slaughtered because of an extreme ideology.
On the other side of the room, there is a letter. It wasn’t a letter from the fallen or a survivor. It was the letter given to the hijackers with their explicit orders on what to do. It explained how if they felt fear, that they should pray and rejoice in their martyrdom. It talked about the ritual in cleaning their knives, shaving their bodies, and oiling their skin. It explained how they should, before impact of their target, open their shirts and give themselves to Allah. Six pages of this. As I read, I broiled.
Later that day, I stood in the Pentagon looking out a window at the exact flight line the plane took to crash into the building. The room I was in is now a memorial room, but 11 years ago today it was completely destroyed. Majors and Colonels and office aides were killed. Some survived on the mere chance that they got up to refill their coffee or use the bathroom. Others sat at their desk and were relatively unhurt. Death was random, sporadic. Earlier in the day I touched a piece of the Pentagon wreckage in the 9/11 room in the FBI building. Then I stood in the building, imagining some of the world’s leaders wiped away in an instant. As I stood, I broiled.
America will forever remember this day, the eleventh of September. But I hope that you remember why it occurred and what it still means ever year. I don’t intend for this to be political, but what we call “Nine Eleven” occurred because there are bad people in the world who actively want to do bad things to western society, especially America.
This hate didn’t begin in 2001, and the hijacked planes were not the first attempt at killing Americans. There was the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 African embassy bombings, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that preceded the 11 September 2011 attacks (and many more smaller, uncharted attacks). The toppling of the towers and the crash into the Pentagon were the final straw for the American people. We went to war.
More to the point, the Afghanistan war is not over; the conflict against terrorist organizations is not over. Conventional forces try to secure regions and nation build. Special Operations hunt the bad guys down. ‘Other’ personnel support it all in their own way. Every week a soldier dies. Every week more than one soldier loses a leg from IED detonations. There are fire fights, there are victories, and there are deaths. It’s a forgotten war. Many are quick to clamor that we don’t have any business in Afghanistan, that it’s a lost cause. Yet the Taliban and other terrorist organizations are poised to once again take control if we let them. There’s benefit in having allies in the Middle East, especially when Iraq and Afghanistan are pivots in the midst of a callous region.
We are comfortable in our lives. The economy slowly grows, we have a new election that focuses on class warfare instead of worrying about the national debt or how events across the world could have a bigger impact on our economy. We have that luxury because we are free. Yet too many people forget that there are bad people actively trying to kill us every day.
And there are bad mother fuckers — Americans, Australians, Brits, Canadians, and more — who are hunting them down.
And there are lesser known individuals, members of other government agencies who protect us too. I’ve seen the recent cases on display of the terrorists the FBI have thwarted. One case includes American citizens who bought into extremist cause to bring death and destruction to other innocent Americans. It happens regularly. Even the Ft. Hood shooter was in contact with Al Queda leaders.
We have a false sense of security because a) we have become complacent in the long years since 2001 and b) there are men and women — military, government, civilian, or otherwise — who successfully protect this and other countries.
Today we shall remember the fallen. However, as we sit nice and cozy at our computers, remember that the war isn’t over. Americans die daily, and yes, it is indirectly to protect you and I. Remember the warriors — whether they wield keyboards or guns — that have and will make it possible for us to only have one memorial from a terrorist attack each year.
Lest we forget…