I will never forget the images on my TV screen on the fateful day of September 11, 2001. It was morning on the west coast, and I awoke to see the first tower smoldering. While my eyes were fixed on this horrible sight, to my disbelief, a plane hit the second tower. And then the final blow of the day when each of the buildings fell to the ground. America was under attack.
Many pre-boomers (those born between 1930 and 1945) recall the day Pearl Harbor came under siege. I was only five, but I remember the mood of adults around me suddenly changed. They were outside talking with neighbors or making phone calls; and, in between these activities, their ears were glued to the living room radio. Even a kid my age, knew something big and bad had happened.
Within days, two family members joined the military as did several young men on the block where I lived. Soon my dad began working at night in a defense plant. And my mother was concerned about what we were going to eat, because food rationing was in place. It was this way for the next four years. During that time, I grew to understand there are casualties in war; it happened to families living close by. However, the American people were willing to pay the price to defeat our common enemies.
Sixty years later, we experienced the second vicious violation of our home soil. At first we were outraged and a little fearful there would be other attacks launched around the country. We were shocked at the death of so many in the World Trade Center buildings, including the valiant police and firefighters who tried to save them. We lost twice as many human beings on 9/11, all civilians, than we did at Pearl Harbor. Memorial services were held. The nation grieved. And we vowed retaliation.
The people who carried out this horrible suicide mission all died, and many of the planners have been killed or captured. Yet the leaders of the movement behind this deadly act and others have not been brought to justice. Two wars and countless attempts at rounding them up have proved fruitless. Have we become soft or been struck stupid? Are we afraid the terrorists and those supporting their misguided efforts are going to be upset because we retaliate against them and what they stand for? Of course they will be, because we are their enemy. Do we have to depend on weak allies to give us the nod to wipe them out? They are being silenced by fear, just as in the past. When we get right down to it, does anyone honestly believe it’s possible to negotiate with terrorists?
I have visited the memorial at Pearl Harbor and read the names inscribed on the wall of each man who lost his life on December 7, 1941. It was a deeply moving experience. I have also been to the cemetery in Normandy, France and walked among the graves of the thousands who died in the name of freedom. And I have gone to Ground Zero in New York on several occasions. Today, I wonder how many more 9/11s it will take for us to be the strong, proud America we once were. I pray we will not have to lose more U.S. citizens before we wake up to the fact that our way of life continues to be under attack.