The Bible tells us, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On September 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.
In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives that were lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.
And yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith – in God and each other – that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny – that belief, through tests and trials, has only been strengthened.
These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit – these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism – in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up and saves lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt from nothing; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on.
Last spring, I received a letter from a woman named Suzanne Swaine. She had lost her husband and brother in the Twin Towers, and said that she had been robbed of “so many would-be proud moments where a father watches their child graduate, or tend goal in a lacrosse game, or succeed academically.” But her daughters are in college, the other doing well in high school. “It has been 10 years of raising these girls on my own,” Suzanne wrote. “I could not be prouder of their strength and resilience.” That spirit typifies our American family. And the hopeful future for those girls is the ultimate rebuke to the hateful killers who took the life of their father.
These past ten years have shown America’s resolve to defend its citizens, and our way of life. Diplomats serve in far-off posts, and intelligence professionals work tirelessly without recognition. Two million Americans have gone to war since 9/11. They have demonstrated that those who do us harm cannot hide from the reach of justice, anywhere in the world. America has been defended not by conscripts, but by citizens who choose to serve – young people who signed up straight out of high school; guardsmen and reservists; workers and businesspeople; immigrants and fourth-generation soldiers. They are men and women who left behind lives of comfort for two, three, four or five tours of duty. Too many will never come home. Those that do carry dark memories from distant places, and the legacy of fallen friends. [click to continue…]