We remember

The primary national holiday of the United States of America is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. This holiday remembers, not a military battle or victory, but a document and the ideas it contains. The Declaration of Independence solemnly states that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” namely, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

But a nation based upon ideas must still exist on the world stage, where wars and violent attacks are a way of life. Our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, remembers a British attack upon Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. This anthem is the first stanza of a four-stanza poem written by Francis Scott Key, who observed the shelling on September 13 and 14 of 1814 and saw that the national flag (at that time consisting of fifteen stripes and fifteen stars) was still flying at the end of the attack. Since that time, Americans have challenged one another to remember the Alamo, remember Gettysburg, remember the Maine, remember the Lusitania, remember Pearl Harbor, and remember 9-11. We also remember non-military tragedies, including the Hindenburg, the Titanic, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

These events loom in our mind as landmarks of history. We commemorate the lives lost, and we consider how our nation has responded to the attacks of our enemies. The sinking of the Lusitania and the bombing of Pearl Harbor were strategic military actions, but they drew us into World Wars. The terrorist attack of 9-11, on the other hand, was a deliberate act to oppose the ideas upon which the United States is based. Those who attacked were opposed to freedom, particularly freedom of religion and freedom of expression. They were opposed to the principles of human rights and the equality of all people. They chose the World Trade Center as a target because they fear economic opportunity which brings with it exposure to the American ideas of freedom, democracy, and liberty.

The War on Terror is different from the World Wars. In the World Wars we could identify our enemies, target their forces, and move toward victory in just a few years. Fighting the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS required different strategies and different goals. What is now America’s longest war remains a defense of liberty and freedom. We seek to preserve these ideas for ourselves, and we also offer them to all the people of the world.

We prevailed in the Cold War because our ideas were better than the ideas of the Soviet Union and its allies. We will prevail in the War on Terror because our ideas are better than those of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Military strength alone does not win wars; it provides, at best, temporary victories. The final victory belongs to those who are defending what is good and opposing what is evil.

We will not forget the three thousand victims of 9-11. We will not forget the police officers and fire fighters who fell while rushing into danger to save others. We will not forget the passengers of Flight 93 who refused to allow the airplane which held them to be used as a weapon against their country. They inspire us to continue to treasure the ideas for which our country stands. They inspire us to continue to support all those who battle to protect our nation and its principles. They inspire us to continue to pray for God’s blessings on our land and on all who live here. J.

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15 thoughts on “We remember

  1. It’s weird, someone lately said: “Everyone remembers what they were doing when they heard of the 9/11 attacks” and it’s true.

    I love how you say “We will prevail in the War on Terror because our ideas are better than those of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Military strength alone does not win wars; it provides, at best, temporary victories. The final victory belongs to those who are defending what is good and opposing what is evil.” I agree. I like to think good will overcome. Much like how bamboo bends sometimes, but never breaks.

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  2. I was 18 when 9/11 happened. Just graduated high school and just signed up for the Marines. 9/11 charted what my time in the Marines would be like. Still can’t believe that was 18 years ago!

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  3. Eighteen years later, it’s still fresh. At 4:30, I turned on the History channel, which is running footage from 9/11 all day. I don’t think it was on 30 seconds before my eyes flooded and tears streamed down my cheeks. The second someone cries, I cry. Can’t do it. Had to change channels.

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  4. Landmarks of history that leave lasting trails upon our collective Nation’s soul…be they joyous or be they sorrowful—but remember we do none the less.

    Reading over the list, I fear not many of our younger generations understand or even know why we say “remember the Maine” –“remember the Alamo”—or even the differences between the diaster of the Hindenberg (who it was even named after) or that of the Lusitania–
    (When I visited Ireland several years ago, we were fortunate to visit Cobh​—the fishing town that became famous for being both the place of refuge for those who were plucked from the icy waters off her coast to a makeshift morgue for all those who lost their lives to the sinking Lusitania)
    It is imperative that those of us who know, perhaps even remember from personal experience or who simply know the history of time, continue to burn the flame of remembrance—be it on those solemn days that mark such tragic events but more especially
    throughout the year…as the lives changed by those events have shaped who we are to this day…

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  5. I remember that day well. I was the manager of the retail store at the VA Hospital in North Little Rock. We had display TVs, and they were all on the same channel as normal. The place was always full of vets, and at our facility, many of them were being treated for emotional and psychiatric disorders. To say it was upsetting to a lot of guys that day would be an understatement. I think some of them understood what it all meant, too, in terms of what we would be facing over some years. Good post, J.

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  6. Very good, sir.
    I’ve always felt that the first strike of our nation against terrorism was carried out by those on Flight 93.. knowing full well by cell phone what had transpired at the Pentagon and the twin towers.. and took measures into their own hands to knowingly bring that plane down and end their lives. It’s wrong to measure the degree of heroism one might display in the light of tragedy like 9/11 but Flight 93 goes truly under estimated and not fully appreciated. When we think of 9/11 we think the Twin Towers and those first responders caught in those buildings when they came down because there were so many that died that day trying to help others. Few of them actually understood that the towers might collapse; instinct told them to just go in and save lives. Those on Flight 93 that actually knew the score, what was happening, what was happening to them, and where they were headed, and took it upon themselves to storm the flight deck and thwart the terrorist mission. When Todd Beamer uttered “Let’s roll.” he and his companions knew what was going to happen. Bush did a good job honoring him specifically and his family… and honestly is escapes me why Beamer and the others were never awarded the Medal of Freedom; it’s gone to far less deserving of the honor.
    One reason this event, of the three that day, seems to fall short in our memories compared to the others is that there are no pictures… just recordings no one hears anymore.

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