Today, we reflect on a day of infamy.
There are few like them in American history. In my lifetime, there have only been two.
First, there was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, killing 2000 of our soldiers. Franklin Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy.”
Then, there was another day of infamy – fifteen years ago, today – when Islamic terrorists used our own airplanes to slaughter 3000 civilians.
When we stop to remember those images from September 11 we feel again the shock and horror. We recall the place we were as we saw those planes careen into our iconic landmarks, and we remember our anxiety as we watched our Air Force jets scramble and our stock market tumble.
We remember our humility as our nation fell to its collective knees in prayer and our unity as democratic and republican legislators stood on the U.S. Capitol in unashamed song and prayer to God. We remember our tears on behalf of those whose loved ones didn’t survive.
Then, there was our national pride as our President Bush stood on still simmering rubble and declared with a bull horn in hand that, “the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon.” Those few words from our Commander-in-Chief prompted the enlistment of a new generation of soldiers who were – once again –willing to die to keep us free.
Many of them did.
On that day nineteen terrorists aimed to bring down our democracy, but – in the end – they only galvanized our American resolve.
They provoked the same American patriotism that has caused countless dictators, authoritarians, communists, criminals and terrorists to face the unrelenting fury of our justice.
For America has never been ashamed of her values or her strength. Both have made the world better, and our citizens safer.
Yet – the truth is – too many people will not stop to remember any of this today.
They will move on with their normal lives without taking a moment to reflect upon the context of history. There are young Americans who were too small to remember, and many older Americans will be too busy today to tell them the story.
Remembering is critical because we forget so quickly. We forget our pain, we lose our lessons, and we dishonor the memory of our heroes.
I already worry that the America of September 11, 2001 could too easily fade into our history. Our reality fifteen years ago, might seem to be only idealism today.
Yet, today, we still experience the echo of that day’s evil. We see it in every ISIS-inspired attack or piece of their published propaganda. We see it in the turmoil of the middle east, and we experience it in the anxiety wrought upon the world by their ideology of death. We hear it in the saber rattling of our old communist enemies, the threats of Iranian clerics, and in the actions of every evil leader who no longer believes we will actually retaliate.
In order to fully defeat the evil of terrorism we need America to be fully American. We need to remember our God, fight for our values and relish in (not apologize for) our strength.
Please pause today, and remember.