On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at work at the police department, and it was like any other morning. In Manassas, outside of DC, the weather was very good that day; it was sunny and warm, few clouds in the sky.
Shortly after 8 AM, my lieutenant called me into his office. "You've gotta see this. A plane hit the World Trade Center!"
Disbelief turned into shock, and we could only watch as the cameras, trained on the tower during the news coverage, showed a second plane strike the Trade Center. It doubled the sense of shock, which immediately turned into a realization that this could only be deliberate. We started calling others in the building, the chief, other command staff, and then waited and watched. That was all we could do.
The sense of dread and building anger at our helplessness grew as the news coverage reported that a third plan had hit the Pentagon. America was under a full-scale attack! These were no accidents, but a deliberate, and well-coordinated assault on the symbols of America's financial and military might. Who could be doing this, and why?
Fear filled me as our neighbors died that day. My mother was working on Capitol Hill in an elementary school as a teacher. If the brave souls aboard a plan over Pennsylvania had not fought back, she, along with many others in that area may not have made it home that night. I thank God that they did. And for my mother's life.
Thousands of innocent men and women died that day. American and foreigners, all races and religions died that day. We watched in horror as our people were burned alive, were crushed, or chose to rush into the inferno and smoke to save strangers. All of us died a little that day, and yet were inspired at how New Yorkers cared for one another. The brave legions of fire fighters that died that day are a part of the story of courage and power of America that was on display that day. That is what makes our country work - our spirit!
That day was a turning point for nearly all of us. Many, if not most, had a sense of righteous anger - our nation had been violated. The protection of the great oceans was no longer enough. Out thousands of men and women serving overseas, on far-away shores, and our technological superiority assured that no conventional army could prevail in an attack. Our mastery of the air and space via satellites and air power meant that no foe could take us by surprise. The recent defeat of the Soviet Union meant that we were that last, and only, great power standing, with the nuclear might that assured the destruction of any other nation foolish enough to attack in that manner. To all appearances, we were at peace - peace assured by outward and obvious strength. We could only be vulnerable from within, through our own self-assurance and confidence.
The opening in our defenses was our embrace of civil liberty - we had liberal freedoms and protections from overbearing government. That was to change.
In the days following the attack on our nation, we came together as I've never seen in my lifetime. We were united in the understanding that our way of life, even our existence as a nation was threatened. We had thought that there was a "peace dividend" now that the Soviet empire was no longer. There were no challenges on the horizon. Peace was at hand, right? No. A war had been declared on us since the days of the Iranian revolution, and attacks occurred with regularity. But they were overseas. Attacks in Europe, Asia, and Africa were in the news, but never affected us here, at home.
From September 12 on, men and women around the country, and those not yet citizens heard a call in their hearts - defend our homeland; defend our freedom! They carried the banner that has inspired patriots throughout our history. They volunteered to serve, not knowing whether they would return. All of the men and women serving in our armed forces have always had courage, but most served in peacetime. These brave souls knew that they would see the enemy, and went forward, one step at a time, into the fire of conflict.
As almost a decade has passed since that day, I've watched with concern and even disgust, as we have collectively decided to turn our backs on this recent history. It is obvious that the news media made a collective decision to suppress the footage of that day, as not to arouse our anger. Our president called the conflict a "War on Terror" instead of naming the enemy - radical Islam. We chose to fight each other politically, rather than the enemy, and at every turn there was an effort to return to the ignorant bliss of September 10. The battles raging on our behalf became political fodder for politicians appealing to one group or another. All the while, our brave, valiant soldiers were fighting, dying, and winning the fight. The news media only grudgingly told the stories of how our soldiers were magnificently winning the war by bandaging our enemies, feeding the hungry, building schools and hospitals, and teaching about something unique to few places in the world - freedom.
That freedom is alive here. These conflict have not weakened the spirit of America. It has only grown as we have realized that we need to fight in whatever way we can to keep the freedoms we have. We need to support our men and women overseas, vote, teach our children about our proud history, and act to keep America strong. Those sacrifices that have been made for our futures will not be in vain because I see, every day, that our young people aren't fooled. They know that we have something special, and it's worth preserving.