On the morning of September 11, 2001, I awoke to begin my usual morning routine before going off for my day’s classes. As I came down the stairs to see about breakfast, I saw on the television the first image so many of us saw on that fateful day, the World Trade Center’s North Tower burning. I stood there, on the stairs, eyes fixed on the TV, trying to get my mind around what was going on. Each new piece of news fell on me like a blow: a plane had hit the WTC, a second plane had hit the WTC, a plane hat hit the Pentagon, a fourth plane had gone down.
It felt like the world was ending.
As we came to learn what had happened, the fear and confusion was replaced by shock and anger. It was more than I wanted to face; I needed someone to blame.
I have heard and read many stories about how 9/11 was the event that galvanized many into shedding the comforts of liberalism for the harsh reality of conservatism. I was, unfortunately, not one of those people. I was too far invested in my liberal worldview to give it up. Somehow, this had to be our fault.
Eventually I found what I wanted. “We were attacked because of American imperialism,” I was informed of by my liberal college friends. “Bush’s incompetence allowed this to happen,” came the rallying cry of the left. I wanted easy answers and these were them. “War on Terror? You can’t have a war on an idea,” came the empty catch-phrase that gave me an excuse not to think. “Religion of Peace,” wailed the apologists. “Makes sense,” I told myself. “Islamophobia,” they wailed again. “Shame on us,” I thoughtlessly agreed.
By October, when we invaded Afghanistan, I had walled myself off in ignorance. I had convinced myself that there was no need to go to war over what I told myself was only a handful of bad people, maybe a few dozen. I did not know, had not bothered to learn, that al-Qaeda was a thousand strong and growing rapidly. It never registered that al-Qaeda had been making war on America for years. An army stood ready and eager to destroy us and I wanted to treat them like a street gang.
I gobbled up every anti-Bush and pro-terrorist lie put in from of me short of “it was an inside job.” I got all my news from The Daily Show on Comedy Central and considered myself well informed. Needless to say, I didn’t support Operation Iraqi Freedom. I allowed myself to be convinced by the left that despising my country and my countrymen was “patriotic.”
It was so easy. The years would roll by, September 11th would come and go, and it all served to keep me numb to the memory of that day, to the fear I had allowed the terrorists to inflict upon me. I wanted to believe that the terrorists didn’t matter anymore. I remembered the dead, but only abstractly. They became a number felled in a tragedy, like an earthquake or a tornado.
They were murdered. For years I let myself forget that, but that is the truth. In the spirit of the unity our nation briefly held I give my thanks to President Obama, under whose leadership the most notorious of the al-Qaeda murderers, Osama bin Laden, has been brought to ultimate justice. I also offer my belated thanks to President Bush and the troops under his command for being strong when I was weak, for turning the tide of a war America had been losing since 1992, for breaking the back of al-Qaeda, for crushing the dreams of blood, pain, and dealth bin Laden had in store for us, and for capturing the men who ultimately lead us to bin Laden himself.
My thanks to the first responders of New York City, who in the face of hell on Earth did not waiver in their courage and selflessness. When we needed you, you were there.
To the majority of American Muslims, whose love of our country and way of life is strong, and who are working to keep the radicals and militants out of their mosques and communities, I thank you.
There are no thanks I can now give to the crew and passengers of Flight 93, whose bravery saved untold lives in our nation’s capitol. May they rest in peace and in honored and blessed memory.
My heart goes out to those whose loved ones were the victims on that terrible day. They will be remembered.
They will always matter.