Last year, I was asked to write a few thoughts about the attacks of September 11, 2001 for a series of "Best of ..." books - this one on Washington, D.C. One of the author/publishers is a personal friend, an intelligence community colleague of many years and an American hero in his own right.
I jotted down some thoughts - it is surprisingly not difficult to express my feelings about that day since I lost colleagues at the Pentagon. It was a bit humbling to see my words in print in that context. I cannot replicate that here - see Best of Washington (nine clicks) - but here are my words:
Pages in History - Remembering 9/11
The attacks of September 11, 2001 will forever be burned into our memories. The images of the towers falling in New York, an aircraft down in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in flames changed all of us forever. Over 3000 people, Americans and hundreds of other nationalities of every race and creed perished at the hands of 19 misguided religious extremists who hijacked not only four jet airliners, but also one of the world’s great religions.
It did not take long for American to respond to the attacks. Within weeks, the Taliban government that provided a safe haven to Usamah bin Ladin and his al-Qaeda jihadists was toppled. Millions of Afghans began the difficult road to democracy. The price paid in 2001 for their opportunity to experience freedom was borne by the same group of Americans who have provided that same opportunity for hundreds of millions over decades – the men and women of the America’s armed forces.
The most famous symbol of American’s military might is the Pentagon, the five-sided monolith on the banks of the Potomac River. More sobering, a glance to the west from the Pentagon underscores the high price of America’s freedom and that of countless others around the world – the hundreds and hundreds of rows of stark white headstones that cover the hillsides of Arlington National Cemetery.
It is here that the currency of freedom is banked. Anyone who has attended a ceremony at Arlington will never forget it – the flag on the coffin, the honor guard in full dress uniform, the crack of the rifles firing volleys as Taps is played on the bugle, the snap of the flag as it is folded into the familiar triangle of blue, and the reverence of fellow warriors as another American hero is laid to rest.
Americans remain deployed around the world – many in harm’s way – in the defense of freedom; the funerals at Arlington continue. Young Americans from all walks of life from across the country continue to volunteer to join the armed forces, knowing full well the risks of stepping forward at a time of war. The risk is real – over 4000 Americans have already fallen in the global war on terror, and more will make the ultimate sacrifice as Americans refuse to bend to the will of those who would rob us of our hard-earned liberties.
Those who would rob of our liberties came to our shores on the morning of September 11, 2001 with the goal of changing American. They did – we will never be the same; the world will never be the same. With renewed purpose, Americans will stand and fight for their freedoms, and the freedom of others.
Author, Media Analyst, Intelligence Officer