It really appeared to be an ordinary and routine sparkling September day. Clear skies, people jammed on subways bustling to work and students headed to another of their first days of the school year. Streams of taxis, produce and other delivery trucks making rounds through the pavement maze of concrete and glass offices. No expectations other than same ol same ol ultimately leading to the long-awaited Friday in another 3 days and then… a weekend of play. But, it was not to be.
But it was in fact a special day. A day of celebration for 19 who were about to die, expecting to meet their Allah and yet, about to be unknowingly unrewarded for their deeds of war. Foreigners. Militants. The culmination of months and years of planning, training and insertion into our society so that their unsuspecting victims would never look upon them as the threat they were. The term terrorist about to be sealed into the lexicon of America’s fate and memory.
I won’t canonize the assassins, the self-appointed executioners here. I won’t relive the timing, the events, all the anguish here, for we are subtly reminded of that every day; every time we hear Muslim, terrorist, bombing… incident. The visions of the planes and the buildings jump forth from our subconscious to center stage of our thoughts. Smacking us back into the reality of the hateful world we live in.
Terror and terrorists have been with us since the beginning of time. It became more defined in 1835 when a simple and single attempt on the life of King Louis Philippe l in France produced 18 dead and 23 wounded. The killing of innocents was now acceptable and more open in the pursuit of political ambitions against one’s enemy. And down through time in the UK, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Poland, Romania, Italy – the list grows like the cancer that motivated and caused their attacks.
9/11 – 19 about to die, expecting to meet their Allah and yet, about to be unknowingly unrewarded for their deeds.
Many of these were Nationalism or Separatism inspired. Some even right or left wing and of course, our more modern Islamic participants. The killing of the innocent bystanders and every day citizens became the accepted norm and target, rather than just a single political or religious antagonist.
While killing and murders for a variety of gains has been present since before Christ was born, the first use in English of the term ‘terrorism’ occurred during the French Reign of Terror. A term coming out of the French Revolution of the late 1700s and one of the predominant political groups known as the Jacobin Club.
President Bush certainly wasn’t the first president to deal with Islamic extremists in 2001. Clinton wasn’t the first to deal with Muslim terrorists as they bombed the World Trade Center the first time in 1993. And President Reagan, he wasn’t the first to deal with terrorism as the religious radicals bombed the Beirut marine barracks in 1983.
Thomas Jefferson was probably the first Commander in Chief who dealt with the Muslim marauders some 217 years ago when fighting the Barbary War back in 1801. Taking it to the enemy was his strategy: to fight them on their own territory of North Africa for high jacking US ships and holding them and their crews for slaves and ransom.
Today we see mayhem at concerts in England and France, the weaponization of cars and trucks in a variety of cosmopolitan areas; suicide crazies in Indonesian hotels, bomb laden terrorists on Madrid trains. It awakens our memories of what we went through that Sept. 11th, and what could be waiting for us, lest we not be prepared for the ever-vigilant persistence of a less sophisticated, yet committed adversary.
We honor those everyday patriots of the twin towers and the Pentagon. Citizens, un-conscripted soldiers, victims in the now solidified, more strongly defined war of terrorism against America. Every day citizens swept up into a war not of their making other than because of their simple existence living in America. 246 passengers on commercial flights arriving at destinations not of their choosing. 2,606 going about their daily tasks in the World Trade Center towers and surrounding area, expecting only a day of sunshine, peace and, in a few hours, a downtown lunch that was not to be served.
And those 125 patriots, in and out of uniform, serving our country at the Pentagon, never anticipating such an intrusion as America Airlines flight 77. Crashing walls, tearing desks and décor, flaming papers, windblown and covering bodies and floors.
And while those who perished into the darkness of New York and Virginia chaos and religious ruin found unexpected death, some had the time to prepare their minds and their souls for heroism on Flight 93. They fought for themselves, they died fighting for America in their own personal way as their plane completed its altered course into that Pennsylvania field. Lives lost – but potentially lives saved.
The memories are strong. The battle goes on. Their sacrifices remembered and honored, and that’s what we do here today. For their lives and deaths gave rebirth to the perception and inspiration that we are the best, the strongest, the freest country on Earth. And at times we’re forced into protecting and defending it – even at the cost of valued yet unsuspecting innocent lives. A sacrifice we’ll commit to and withstand for it’s our country and our people.
We cannot and will not forget those growing numbers of first responders who ran repeatedly and without hesitation into harm’s stairwells and corridors in order to save unknown countrymen from immediate and pending dangers. Firefighters, police, emergency and medical personal, every day citizens marking their place on the pages of remembrance for those they saved who would later make life long proclamations of unselfish heroism.
America is prepared. America is steadfast in its desire and demand for freedom, and most capable of that protection we need under our strong leadership and patriotic citizenry.
We would say to our enemies of all descriptions, from any country, religion or race that America stands resolute, and for your deeds of September 11th, 2001 –
We Will Never Forget.
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