Before 2001, Sept. 11 meant that it was my Momma’s birthday and not much else. Now, it is a reminder of why we fight and what we fight for.
I remember being a sophomore in high school waiting outside my homeroom class because our teacher was late. He rushed up to the door, fumbling with his keys, and told us in a raised voice that “The Palestinians have blown up New York.” I imagined the entire city replaced by a giant crater from a nuclear blast.
As we funneled through the doorway our teacher made a bee line to the television and turned it on. We watched replay after replay of the two planes hitting the World Trade Center towers.
Everyone reacted differently to what they were seeing. Some became emotional, some became angry, and some didn’t seem to care because it wasn’t happening to them.
That all changed when we watched in horror as people jumped to their deaths to escape the flames that were just then reaching the top floors of the buildings. It wasn’t personal for all the young kids in that room until the cameras zoomed in on each individual jumper and followed their last seconds of life down to ground.
I remember thinking right then and there that whoever did this deserves to die violently. I wanted to be a soldier when I was young just like most boys do but no more than the next guy. Back then, though, war was a movie, a video game or stories told by old veterans during the holidays when they drank too much.
But this was my generation’s turn to fight. This was our Pearl Harbor.
I was too young and naive to fully grasp the gravity of coming events, but I knew that after I graduated high school I’d take part in them. And I did.
After a decade of constant warfare, 15 months of which I was deployed in an airborne infantry platoon, Sept. 11 reminds me why we have paid so high a price in blood.
Nobody wants these wars– not the Americans sitting safely in their homes watching them from television screens and for damn sure not the Afghan or Iraqi citizens who live this nightmare day in and day out. But at the same time, those people in the World Trade Center towers didn’t want to die horribly that day either.
Sept. 11 is a reminder that we were dragged into this, our hand was forced. An eye for an eye may make the whole world blind, but when you are dealing with murderers who are trained, motivated, and armed by state and non-state actors across the world, security for our people can only be won through strength of arms.