As the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11 passes, only images of that moment in our nation’s story can suffice to bring to us the raw emotion of such an event.
That day, the cruel bite of circumstance stole from us an American innocence which was taken for granted in such an open, powerful, and welcoming society. Liberty, prosperity, and safety, we thought, were the norm; Communism had collapsed not a decade earlier, and the despots of World War II were only distant memories.
Who would dare attack us? A few; but who could do so and succeed?
For the moment, the people whom we had forgotten were a danger to us — that same jihād movement with which we, with genuine and finally successful intentions, had allied ourselves — brought us to our knees. 2,977 men, women, and children who only deserved their fate in the burning eyes of the Grand Jihād were murdered, and symbols of American pride reduced to rubble in a Vesuvian spectacle of terror.
The choice some made then, and which we all must make now, is whether to answer that call to national maturity and face the most painful truth of all: that evil, bloodlust, tyranny, and violence are the normative state of being. But the hope which must guide rests with the courage and decency of the people who are faced with this challenge — succored by crosses which emerged from man’s twisted creations.
The forward move is to speak: “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people… who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” said a defiant George Bush as he stood among the mountains of rubble. The rest of the world can hear the people who choose to stand tall and fight for a civilization, both under assault and the outlier of decency and freedom in a world where none else exists.
The story of 9/11 is the story of that civilization’s choice to fight or attempt a suicidal return to a moral innocence forever lost.