The Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 is a day still seared into my mind and heart. On that fateful morning – ten years ago on Sunday – the financial and military centers of our great nation were attacked by Islamic terrorists who wanted to destroy the freedoms that we all hold so dear. It was also the day on which the first battle of the War on Terror was won by ordinary citizens on United Flight 93 fighting back against a suicide mission to attack the political center of our country – the United States Capitol building.
During that morning I learned that Barbara Olson, a very dear friend of mine, had perished on American Airlines Flight 77 – the flight that hit the Pentagon. Barbara and I worked on the Clinton investigations together in the 1990s for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. She was a tough litigator and a conservative stalwart. In the final minutes of her life, Barbara relayed vital information from the plane to her husband, Ted Olson, President Bush’s Solicitor General at the time. Barbara had such a kind heart and her loss still has a profound effect on me today.
Watching the news throughout the day, I had hoped that there would be many more survivors found at the Pentagon, World Trade Center and Shanksville, Pa., but in the end those hopes were dashed as nearly 3,000 people perished at the hands of Al Qaeda. As a firefighter in Montgomery County, Maryland, I will never forget the selfless sacrifices made by the 343 members of the FDNY and the other first responders who perished so others could live on September 11th. Those brave men and women ran into the burning towers to save their fellow citizens from certain death, showing the world what the word “hero” truly means.
As it became clear that we had a deadly and determined enemy to face, I hoped that we as a nation would find the fortitude and perseverance that I knew this fight would require. I suspected that the focused anger we felt in the days and weeks following the horrific attacks would eventually fade away for some, but we cannot let time diminish the significance of this attack and how, in the span of a few seconds, the world forever changed.
On September 11th America was attacked by an enemy that had already been at war with us for decades, but our political leaders refused to acknowledge that radical Islamists wanted to destroy America and will not stop until they have won. The War on Terrorism is not just a slogan, it is a reality of the world in which we live. Citizens United Productions’ documentary America at Risk details the ongoing threat to our security and livelihood and explains what must be done to win this war. The film investigates the roots of radical Islam’s hatred of the West. This extremist thinking is pure evil and paved the way for the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Even with the successful operation by the Navy SEALs to kill Osama bin Laden, America is still at risk of another terrorist attack on our homeland. America must remain vigilant, and we cannot pull back the reins on our military and intelligence services now. If we do not maintain our resolve, the sacrifices made over the last ten years will have been in vain.
It should be the mission of every American to ensure that September 11th does not become just another day on the calendar. We must never forget the sacrifices made on that day nor the sacrifices made by our military in the months and years following to keep us safe. Unfortunately, America’s school systems do not teach our children what happened that day. September 11th was a great tragedy for our nation, but it will be an even greater tragedy if the next generation does not understand why America was attacked by radical Islam.
On September 11th the terrorists tried to make America cower in the face of evil, but they failed because the American spirit is much greater than the terrorists ever thought it could be. Like previous foes, in previous wars, the terrorists made the mistake of waking up a sleeping giant. Never forget September 11, 2001, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.