After more than sixty years, World War II veterans still cry when they recall the horrors of war. The memories of lost friends and desperate battles are as clear to them as if they happened yesterday.
That is how it must be for us.
Our Pearl Harbor was only eight years ago. Do you remember how the blood froze in your veins when you saw the second plane go in? How in an instant your mind told you, “This was no accident. This was deliberate.”
Were you stunned, or horrified, or frightened? Were you all three?
Rumors began to fly. The Pentagon had been hit. The Capitol. The White House. There was another plane coming down the Potomac. There were dozens of planes. Another went down in Pennsylvania.
Within a few hours the fleet sortied on both coasts. Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, looked like a ghost town by sunset.
Worried loved ones phoned each other. Evacuation plans were reviewed. Ammunition was pulled out of closets and checked.
And all along we were hypnotized by the scenes unfolding on the television. As the picture became clearer we agonized for those in the Twin Towers, and try as we might we could not shake the thoughts of what it must have been like for those trapped above the fire, or the passengers of Flight 93 in the sky over Pennsylvania after they had learned of the fate of other hijacked planes.
Many of us in the military knew people who worked in the Pentagon, and knew it would be days before we learned if they had survived. So we prayed.
In the days to follow, inspiration and a tangible sense of togetherness took the place of isolation and despair. We heard about the firefighters who went up while everyone was heading down. We heard the phrase, “Let’s roll,” and saluted the spirit of our countrymen who took the fight to the terrorists and drew the first blood of the new war. And we saw the flag. The gigantic, glorious flag draped over the Pentagon while the fires still burned. Pentagon personnel went back to work the very next day to show the world that no cowardly act of sadistic cruelty would stop us…or even slow us down.
As a nation we knew what we must do. And we all spoke in unison.
It has been eight years since the tragedy of 9/11, but until the world is safe again and every Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, and Coastguardsman is home, we must never forget that day. Sixty years from now, when we look back on September 11th and its aftermath, many of us will still shed tears. But we will take comfort in knowing that we did our part when our country needed us.
And we will never forget.