Ten years ago today, our world changed, our country changed. I, and each of you, changed.
That morning, I had just flipped on the television to see what was going on with the weather. My plan that day was to drive to my grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania for a much-needed visit (my “chill” visits, as we liked to called them). What I saw on the television was the moments just after the first plane hit the first tower. I was watching it in some shock, but not much. At that moment, it wasn’t clear if it was a charter plane (that’s what they thought) and seemed a given that it had to be some kind of strange, inexplicable (it was such a bright, sunny morning, the tower so immense) accident. Weird. But then . . . then the next plane flew directly into the second tower. There was no other way to understand it then, or now. It was purposeful, it was an attack. It was terrorists.
All these people telling you now that we didn’t know about al Queda then or that we didn’t know we were at war are full of sh . . . um, they are not telling the truth. No idea why or what their agenda (we hear it from the left and the right, so who knows), but we knew about terror. I knew watching that second plane fly into the second tower that it was terrorists. I knew it in my gut.
And this was back when I barely paid attention (comparatively) to what was happening, either here at home or abroad. But I did know, however vaguely, about the first World Trade Center bombing in the ’90’s, and I remembered very well, heart-achingly well, the attack on the U. S. S. Cole. I knew about attacks on American embassies abroad. And these events, these terrorist attacks on America, all sort of flew together in my subconscious mind, crashed into what I was seeing happening in New York City, and came together as “oh my God, we’re being attacked!”
I didn’t know by whom. I didn’t even “know” it in the real sense of the word. The newscasters didn’t know what was happening, no one really did. But, really, we all did.
It was horrific. Standing there–I hadn’t turned on the tv to watch it, just to hear the weather–gaping at the television, sure in my heart that we were being attacked. I grabbed the phone (this was still early, phones were still working in the northeast) and called my grandmother. She was watching, too, and said for me to stay home (my journey to her home in Pennsylvania would take me over the Tappan Zee bridge in New York). Reports were that tunnels and bridges were being closed; maybe, that’s fuzzy now, but I remember so clearly her telling me to stay home, not to go near New York City. I agreed. We didn’t say much more, neither expressed our fears, our certainty that we were under attack, for worry of frightening the other.
Like so many others across this country, I watched the events unfold. The towers collapse, one then the other. The news of the plane hitting the Pentagon. The deaths. So many deaths. The billowing smoke. The grounding of all air traffic. Reports of planes still in the air, not responding, not landing. President Bush reading to those children, hearing the news, his mouth pursing in anger, resilience. Or did we see that film later? I do remember him speaking briefly from the school, telling us what we all knew but didn’t believe until we heard it from him. News that the president was being flown to D. C. or out to Nevada or somewhere. Images of New Yorkers running, screaming, sobbing, the smoke, the flames, the ash. People walking, so slowly so stunned, across the closed-to-automobiles bridges in New York City. It was all a rush of images, a rush of impressions, and under it all, a growing anger. A growing outrage. A growing realization that this land that I loved, this America, was in danger. Here, at home, on our own soil. That we were to be forever changed by it, that our innocence as a nation would be forever gone.
I stayed glued to the television for the next few days, flipping through channels, looking at everything, trying to take it in, understand it, know what happened and who did it. I didn’t care why then. It didn’t matter why it happened. This attack on my country, my beloved America, was more than I could accept, more than I could take in, and nothing could ever justify it. Nothing.
Then there was President Bush, standing atop that rubble, personally at Ground Zero, grasping a megaphone and promising that the people who did this horrible thing to our nation would pay. I cried for the first time. I cried like a baby. I was so proud of our president, so happy to lean on his obvious strength, to trust him to make it right. Here was what I needed to see, what I needed to hear, what I needed. Period. In that moment, President Bush came into focus before my eyes. Granted, I’d never hated him as commies did, as progressives did, but I didn’t think much of him back before 9/11. But I loved my country, then as now, and in that moment, it was clear to me that he did, too. That he took it personally. Just as I did. It was personal. It happened in NYC, in PA, at the Pentagon, but it was personal. You attack America, you attack my president. And you attack me.
As the years have passed and all the things that we all know about have happened, the one thing that I’ve noted, almost from afar, is how I’ve become more and more conservative. Like most Democrats then (and today), I had no idea it was a steaming, straining ball of tangled evil, of commies, Marxists, anti- and unAmerican racists who despise our country. Obviously, that’s more clear to me now than even on 9/11, but that’s when I started waking up. That’s when I started seeing things that I’d been able to block out, ignore, rationalize. And I am not alone. Many many people who were nominal “democrats” changed that day. We weren’t a part of that, not then, not before, and certainly not after.
9/11 struck our hearts and souls as Americans, and how we responded to it, to my mind, defines who we are, what we believe, and at the end of the day, whose side we’re on. Americans, real American patriots who love this country, did not make excuses for the terrorists who did this thing, we did not scratch our heads and wonder what we did wrong, we did not reach out to embrace and bow to the people who did this to us and cheered gleefully when it happened. We knew, in our hearts and souls and minds, that we are a great nation, that we are Americans who love America, the land, her people, and most significantly, what she stands for. This thing that was done to us, to our nation and to our fellow Americans, had nothing to do with that. We knew it instinctively that day, and we’ve known it instinctively every day since.
And we were right. Islamic terrorists have no more special hatred for America than for any of the other countries and peoples they attack and slaughter. Islamic terrorists have attacked America, Spain, China, Bali, Germany, Scotland, England, Russia, France, Italy, India, every Middle Eastern nation, numerous countries in Africa, and many more besides. This was never about America, not to them; they chose to attack us, anyway, because nothing was done after the first World Trade Center bombing, nothing was done about our embassies, nothing was done about the U. S. S. Cole; they thought we’d do nothing, so they chose to attack us before they could be assured that they had the upper hand in their war against the non-radical-Islamofacist world. And that, my patriot friend, was their biggest mistake. To them, it’s not personal, to them it’s . . . well, something else. But they brought their fight to us, to our soil, to our land, to our beloved America.
They seek to intimidate us with their barbaric brutality, their bombings and beheadings, their bestial behavior. But that day all they did was piss us off. Royally. So today we mourn so much, so many lives, so much loss, such a beating to our nation’s heart. But we also strengthen our resolve. That war they brought to our shores will be won, and it will be won by us. Of this, there is no doubt. None.
We are Americans, and we will not fail, we will not waver, and we will never forget.