(Opening Remarks at Campus Ceremony, Sept. 12) How should we approach our commemoration of September 11, 2001, here at Colorado Christian University? Here are some thoughts from my perspective as director of the Centennial Institute, our public policy center at the university.
On the second Tuesday in September ten years ago, Islamist fighters from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE, trained in Afghanistan by the Al Qaeda revolutionary organization under Osama Bin Laden, took over four US airliners and turned them into missiles of war for an attack on New York City and Washington DC.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center, symbolizing American free enterprise, were destroyed. The Pentagon, symbolizing American military might, was gravely damaged. A direct hit on the United States Capitol or the White House, which would have decapitated American self–government, was narrowly averted by the heroism of passengers on board Flight 93.
The strike was brilliantly planned and barbarically executed. It hit us like a lightning bolt from a clear sky. Two thousand nine hundred and seventy–seven lives were lost that day, many of them massacred unawares, but many others in sacrificial efforts of resistance or rescue, with acts of magnificent courage. Thousands of families mourned the loss of loved ones.
The nation’s anger was roused, but our confidence was also shaken. Voices of self–doubt and self–reproach were heard among our own elites. Voices of condemnation from Muslim leaders were hesitant and few. Street mobs celebrated in the home countries of the 9/11 attackers. What did it all mean?
Some Americans said it meant we had cultural fences to mend and yet another criminal–justice job to do. But most Americans understood it meant we were at war. Arguably that war had been going on in one–sided fashion against us from the Islamists since at least 1979 when the US embassy in Iran was seized.
The war continues today—punctuated by progress in Iraq, progress in Afghanistan, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and more than 60 intended or actual jihadist attacks upon the US homeland over the past 3600 days.
Disturbingly, however, what America clearly understood as a long and deadly–serious war ten Septembers ago is now too often blurred and misunderstood as nothing more than one horrific day of terror, trauma, and tragedy. Fellow Americans, fellow patriots, brothers and sisters—this must not be. This must not be.
The consequences of 9/11 WERE tragic in terms of the lives lost, the economic cost, the emotional cost, the compromising of civil liberties. But the event we are gathered to commemorate this evening was no mere tragedy.
A tragedy is something that just happens—the result of fate or bad luck or bad judgment. The 9/11 attack did not just happen. It was a heinous atrocity brought to our shores by a determined enemy. It was a deliberate and unprovoked act of war by forces with a definite address and an agenda of total conquest, total world domination.
Does America remember that and realize that, today in 2011? Parts of America unfortunately do not. But this Christian university and this assembly of wide-awake citizens do remember. Absolutely we do.
We have not forgotten and will never forget why 9/11 happened, what 9/11 cost, what 9/11 still demands of us. We come together to honor the dead and keep their memory alive by living worthily of them—which includes focusing our minds and devoting our energies and uniting our purpose in such a way as to keep AMERICA alive.
Let us use our time this evening to say not only, “Wasn’t it!” but also, “Isn’t it!” Let us not just look back with remembrance, but let us, even more, look ahead with resolve. Wasn’t it awful that day? Wasn’t it sad? Wasn’t it horrifying? Wasn’t it a more innocent world before the planes hit the towers? Yes, it was, and to reflect on that at a decade’s distance is fitting.
Yet to stiffen our spine now in the present, and set our faces to the future, and rededicate ourselves unswervingly to duty, truth, and honor, is more fitting still. Isn’t it imperative, isn’t it urgent, isn’t it nobly incumbent on us to preserve the America our enemies wanted—and still want—to destroy?
Isn’t it unacceptable that we should lapse back into the softness and complacency they exploited so lethally on that September morning. Isn’t it a great and high calling for each of us to accept, that the decades ahead should be a better, freer, stronger time for these United States and all the friends of freedom than the decades just behind? Yes, it is. It is!