On Patriot’s Day, it is always appropriate to take a moment and reflect on the sacrifice of those killed in the deadly attacks and those who continue to guard the frontlines of freedom, whether in the armed services, law enforcement, from the pulpit, or in our community organizations. September 11th, 2001 has been etched in the memories of mankind for sixteen years now. Everyone of age can remember exactly what they were doing when they found out about the attacks; most joined a stunned world to watch as media broadcast the strikes repeatedly on international news. While in class at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I joined fellow officers to watch the footage from the first strike at 8:46 a.m. with smoke still billowing from the north tower. Sixteen minutes later the second plane hit the south tower on live television. 35 minutes later a third plane struck the Pentagon. At 9:59 a.m. Eastern Standard Time the southern tower collapsed after burning for 56 minutes. The north tower came down shortly thereafter. At 10:03 a.m. the fourth plane went down due to the heroic efforts of passengers who decided to fight back. It did not take some Americans long to realize there was a war going on. The instincts of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93 probably saved the lives of hundreds of people. The attacks were symbolically chosen to strike at the heart of U.S. economic power (the World Trade Center), military might (the Pentagon), and political center (many analysts predict that Flight 93’s target was either the White House or Capitol Building). The attacks were meant to inspire fear.
So sixteen years later our nation finds itself still engaged in fighting Al Qaeda. We, as citizens, stand together today on the frontiers of freedom. Some of us are tired and bear the scars of battle, both inside and out. But we dare not falter. The intrepid spirit that spawned a nation of free loving people must continue to stoke the fires of passion. Complacency is our greatest threat. Many Americans have grown tired. They bear the psychological scars of emotional loss, unspeakable atrocities and brutal existence. Some have no hope. Let us not enter those ranks!
Regardless of where we find ourselves, conscientious citizens will serve to the utmost of their ability, committed to making a difference for their fellow human beings or defeating evil. As John Stuart Mill reminds us, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” Although this is probably one of Mill’s most repeated quotes in military circles, I will leave you with my favorite. “One person with belief is worth 99 of those with only an interest.” The world is changed by small groups of committed, passionate individuals. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. You can make a difference.