Anniversaries of past events serve our memory, for good or for ill. Some are recurring celebrations: birthdays, weddings, graduations. Some are firsts: first word, first tooth, first concert, first kiss, first…. And some are recurring memorials of past tragedies or sorrows: Pearl Harbor, terrorist attacks, Nine-Eleven. We remember these annual events so that we will not forget.
The September 11, 2001 New York trade center bombings is a tragedy that we must not forget. We were attacked on our own soil by religious jihadists who believed that America was evil and desired our death. Our response was to enter Afghanistan and control the terrorists that were given safe harbor. We did this for twenty years. We may have been nation building, as some have said but this was not the reason we were there. We were there to keep world peace.
The fact that we are no longer there means that world peace is once again threatened, that the jihadists have been given a green light to plan attacks all over the world, but particularly in the West and those nations who desire freedom.
And so I turned to an updated National Geographic series, 9/11: One Day in America. I wanted to remember. It was recommended by The Epoch Times, a news source I trust, and so I now recommend it. The hour by hour account includes the scenes we have seen over the years, but interwoven by phone messages and alerts, told by survivors. The interweave is brilliantly done, and one gets a sense of the day as it was. Also recommended are the interviews and videos recently done with Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush at the time of the New York attacks, and later Secretary of State. Her analysis of today’s situation in light of her experience is most valuable and can be found at The Daily Wire and the Hoover Institution.
Where was I on Nine-Eleven when the first reports came through on the television? I was at home, and I saw the newscast as we made breakfast, for 8:45 a.m. in New York City is 5:45 a.m. in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were stunned, as was the nation, and then we feared we were now at war once again.
As a great-grandmother having lived seventy-four years on this good earth, I have experienced wartime. Vietnam was our war, the war that swallowed our young men, the war that maimed them and discouraged a generation. It was an unpopular war and riots encouraged draft dodgers and resisters. It was a time that eclipsed one’s own time, those college years that other generations seem to treasure. We lived in fear and confusion, as radicals marched and rock missals broke classroom windows and sit-ins disrupted college life. Before Vietnam was Korea and before that was World War Two. My father was in the World War and he too was affected deeply by what he encountered on his ship in the Pacific Theater. He survived the kamikazes and returned to marry my mother in Long Beach and to forget war and to have the family he so desired.
War puts things in perspective, just as death gives meaning to life. My bishop of blessed memory often said that a truly religious person has faced his own death. Accepting a limited span of life makes those hours, days, and years all the more precious and valuable. I suppose it is the old economic trope, that scarcity raises value.
In the second half of the twentieth century America grew complacent. There were many warnings, precursors, to Nine-Eleven that went unheeded. Military spending declined. National Intelligence floundered as well.
This seems to be happening all over again as we shamefully exit Afghanistan and defund not only our police but our military. We are ripe for another attack upon our soil. What will it take for us to truly wake up and not just be woke? Or, when will the woke awake? The pandemic has diverted our attention and nearly blinded us to reality. We live in a fallen world, and while many hold utopian visions of the goodness of all mankind, these visions are not rooted in reality. America alone offers freedom to the world. Other Western nations have become too weak to offer anything but dreams and platitudes. Soon America will be too weak as well. The Taliban et al do not desire to have a seat in the world order of united nations. This is not their goal. They want a world theocracy governed by Sharia law.
With the images of the planes hitting the towers, of the explosions and black smoke billowing into the crystal blue sky over Manhattan, of the people jumping to their deaths to avoid burning, of the collapse of the tower into a giant heap of ash and rubble that ate the air of Lower Manhattan, home of world trade and finance – with these horrific images running through my memory – I was glad to spend a few hours in our Berkeley chapel this morning. I was glad to sing and pray together with my brothers and sisters. I was glad to let the thundering organ notes pour over me, fortifying me. I was glad to hear the Gospel lesson about the lilies of the field that neither sow nor reap, and that our Heavenly Father cares for them. I was glad to be reminded not to worry too much about tomorrow. And of course Our Lord was not saying to sleep through the days but to be heartened, for in the end, all things will work to the glory of God. We still need to be perfect, still need to repent, and still need to learn better ways of loving one another. We still need to be faithful, watching and vigilant.
Memory teaches us what is good and what is evil. We learn hard lessons that we do not want to forget. I am glad I immersed myself in this twentieth anniversary of Nine-Eleven. I can see better, and because I can see, I can better choose the path that must be taken. As our nation must do as well. Wake up, America.