9/11/01: Eleven Years Later
It was a crisp fall morning eleven years ago today. I was a second lieutenant in the middle of the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Ft. Benning, and we had been up all night training. Morning chow was over, and a new crew of cadre was arriving. We were preparing our weapons and equipment for our second day in the field, and the day was beginning to take shape. We first heard about the attacks via a cadre member who knew little. No one understood the magnitude of the attack, but suspicions were rising and our curiosity had been piqued. We tuned in to the local CBS affiliate via our SINCGARS radios, and listened intently as the coverage unfolded. We could hear the words – and did so for so many hours over the next three days – but we had no idea what the images better conveyed. We were angry, and we were in the relative dark as our fates were being sealed.
We spent that weekend glued to the television, piecing together what had happened and pondering what the US response would be. We were proud, but we were young and naive. Few, if any, of the men whom we would soon be leading had experienced combat and they would soon rely on us to bring them home. We couldn’t have predicted it at the time, but the longest war in US history had just begun and we were entering that war as its next cohort of junior leaders. Our nation changed forever that day, and so too did our military. We grew up quickly.
The eleven years that have passed since that fateful day have been nothing short of turbulent. America has lost many more of its sons and daughters, and others remain in harms way. Vulnerabilities in our economic infrastructure have been exposed, and many are still reeling in light of the greatest economic calamity to affect our markets in recent times. Politics have become polarized. We agree on less and less, and the struggle for control over our nation’s direction is daunting. We’ve seen better days, but we have grown and progressed, and our we’re stronger for having endured it. America remains the greatest nation on earth, and our best days are ahead of us.
Today is a day to get off the sidelines. To set aside our disagreements, and to pay homage to the lives lost and the many others scarred. It’s a day to give thanks, for we are an incredibly blessed people. We live in a country that’s free and safe from our nation’s enemies – both foreign and domestic, and we do so because selfless men and women ensure it every day. Today we salute those men and women for sustaining us and allowing us to live our lives in peace. Never in our nation’s history have so few secured so much for so many. To our men and women in uniform, the debt of gratitude which we owe you is significant.
On this day, and on every day, a grateful nation continues to embrace and appreciate your sacrifices. To some, these may just be words. To the many Americans who believe it, however, it’s our heartfelt sentiment. We remember September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. We honor its victims and we cherish those who have served in its wake. We continue to stand together in strength and solidarity. God bless America and the men and women who serve and defend her daily.
Photo Credit: Brendan Loy via Flickr
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