As we approach the anniversary of September 11, 2001, I have to reflect a bit. On that morning, I had just returned from the gym and turned on the TV. The first tower had just been hit and there was a lot of confusion about what had just happened. Reporters were just starting to broadcast, and there were more unknowns than knowns.
I was telling my wife that it looked like a small plane had crashed into one of the twin towers and it was on fire. Then I saw the second plane circling around to make impact. Within seconds it hit the tower, and I followed that with the comment, “We’re under attack.” As a Christian, I’m familiar with the voice of God, and instantly He said, “It’s not over!” That started a day of phone calls and prayer at our house. Two of my good friends were commercial pilots. One was taxiing in the plane behind the plane that hit the Pentagon. I stayed engaged in those calls until I had accounted for all of my friends and family.
That was the beginning of a new America. The one I had grown up with was over, and a new country was about to emerge. Within six months, I was in the former Soviet Union, and in a conversation with a dear friend, Yana Katsova, I said, “What the terrorists didn’t understand is that they would have to kill all of us to kill the American spirit.” And Yana, in a simple, but classic response said, “That’s the same thing they think.” She was probably right, but I wonder if the terrorists really knew who they attacked.
The United States of America isn’t just a land mass. Geographically, it might be, but the USA as we know it, is an ideal. It is an idea born out of the hearts of men and women who longed for freedom and the free expression of their thoughts and ideas. It’s more than dirt. It’s a determination and a dedication in the hearts of its citizens that exceeds the bounds of fear and intimidation.
America is more than political parties, religious sects, tribalism and sectarianism. America is the strength of the individual combined with an invisible bond to people known and unknown. It is that bond that causes one individual to rise up to defend another simply because he is an American. Strangers become allies when attacked by outside adversaries, and for that moment they are one. They may return to totally disconnected lives in the days that follow, but in that one event they are brothers and sisters.
What the terrorists of 9/11 could never figure out is that an attack like that of September 11, 2001 only works to make us stronger. Rather than cower in fear, an American rises in strength and an undaunted boldness that overcomes fear. It empowers the American spirit to respond purposefully and justly. When the hammer of justice slams down on the enemies of the American ideal an element of mercy rises to make sure that the measure of justice is just and not simply a response of flailing at invisible enemies who cannot be counted. Sure there have been those who have abused that long arm of justice, but they are soon exposed and ostracized by the very people they assumed they would impress. No, make no mistake, Americans are seekers of justice more that seekers of retribution.
The United States of America, even with all of her flaws and foibles is a great land. She is still a light set upon a hill. People from all over the world risk life and limb to land upon her shores. She is the hope of many, the home to masses and the greatest idea and ideal mankind has ever seen. God bless this great country. God bless those who perished, and those they left behind, on September 11, 2001, and may we never forget what makes us great.