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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why We Must Remember

 Today marks a very sobering day in our nation's history. Thirteen years ago this morning, a handful of malicious and evil-intentioned men hijacked four airplanes and took the lives of over two-thousand people, thus changing our country's story forever.
  I was thirteen at the time, and I so clearly remember the aftermath of that tragic day and what it meant for my life and that of so many others. National Guard soldiers keeping vigilant watch in our airport, a large flag draped over the Pentagon, a cross emerging from the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center - these images are forever imprinted on my mind.
  I think of how much things have changed since then. We live in a very different world as a result of the events of 9/11. We are more aware of threats to our national security, our military service members have been heavily taxed in mind, body, and spirit due to the extended conflicts in the Middle East, many families have given the ultimate sacrifice  as their loved one died defending our precious freedoms.
   But I also think that what happened on this date has become less and less defining for us. Political solidarity that caused a divided nation to rally together has turned into partisan bickering and dis-unity. High support for our military has dropped to a point where some are even suggesting we're repeating the despicable treatment we gave returning troops in Vietnam. In a way, we've gone back to the way we were before 9/11.
   In thirteen short years, have we already forgotten? Do the heroic stories of bravery and patriotism no longer move us the way they once did?
I, for one, know that I am personally guilty of this, even though 9/11 changed my life in many ways: were it not for this horrible day in American history, I never would have ended up dedicating almost ten years to helping military service members and their families; I never would have learned the powerful lessons I did following the death of my friend Michael, who died while serving with the Marines in Iraq. I would not have given several years of my young life to standing up for the political causes I believe in, would never have had certain experiences or met some unique and special people along the journey. In many ways, 9/11 shaped my growing up years. It was the Pearl Harbor moment for my generation.

  As the years have gone on, I find myself more and more wishing, hoping, that we  would remember. Our world is moving on so quickly these days. It's easy to forget the lessons 9/11 taught us: to cherish your family, to believe in God, to be thankful for the country you live in, to stand up for what you know is right. Thirteen years isn't all that long, really. And many alive today are too young to remember how 9/11 changed it changed us. Don't they deserve to learn these lessons also? Shouldn't they hear our stories, too?
   It shouldn't take an event of this magnitude to bring us together and teach us what self-less living is all about. Today, if you are old enough to recall 9/11, to remind yourself of what it means to be an American and to sacrifice for worthy ideals, do so, and encourage others to do the same. And even if you're too young to remember that day, talk to someone who does. Because remembering is what keeps apathy at bay. Remembering allows the lessons learned to stay fresh in the human mind and heart.
   On this sobering occasion, remember to thank God, most of all, that this tragedy hasn't been repeated and to ask for His continued mercy on our nation.
   In thirteen years, a lot can change...but a lot can remain the same if we're not watchful. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." By our remembering, may we prove this to be true, and may the acts of heroism, the deeds of kindness, the spirit of patriotism which we felt in the days that followed 9/11 remain with us forever and spur us on to nobler things. Today, I will remember. Will you?