I posted this article a year ago, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I have rewritten it to reflect what is going on today. Please read my updated article for this special year.
Ten years ago, I wrote this letter to the editor, which was published in the Eden Prairie News shortly after September 11, 2001:
On September 11, among the many lessons to be learned, I learned that three small words can be used to convey something fearful and despondent, while at the same time convey a message of reassurance and hope .
When my nine-year-old son came home from school that afternoon, he didn't seem to know much about what had happened. I sat him down and explained to him the terrible events of the day. He looked at me, his round blue eyes searching mine for reassurance. "Will we have a war, Mama?" he asked. "Yes, we will," I said, wanting to bite back my words, but at the same time knowing I was doing the right thing. I had to be honest with my son. Thanks to the evil of terrorism, my answer was true.
Later, my 13-year-old daughter quickly began to understand the gravity of the situation. In typical teenage fashion, avoiding my eyes and trying not to sound too serious, she asked, "Will America make it through this, Mom?"
I told her about the deprivation of the Great Depression, the civil war that pitted brother against brother, and two world wars that tested the strength of every American. "Yes, we will," I answered. I had to be honest with my daughter. Thanks to the indelible American spirit, my answer was true.
Three small words. "Yes, we will." They can mean so many things. That day they meant a promise of war and the promise of victory. Other days, they mean something else.
Life does go on, as it has, since September 11, 2001. We started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where our troops remain today. We've elected a president who has barely spoken of keeping us safe.
Worse, we've witnessed another terrorist attack in America: the shootings at Fort Hood
Our president and most presidential candidates talk about jobs and our economy. Many Americans want our government to give them more, more, more money, programs; you know, free stuff. There is little discussion about how those things won't matter at all if we are the victims of another massive attack by our enemy, which still exists as brutally as it did 10 years ago. Which wants us, and our way of life, gone, dead, buried.
But we also wonder who will be on this season of Dancing With the Stars
. We've become obsessed with vampires. Big news equals Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony's divorce and Kim Kardashian's wedding.
Before you say, "Oh no we haven't," I say to you, "Look around. The unity we found that day is lost. We are a country divided. We have stood on opposite sides arguing about whether a Mosque should be built near the Ground Zero site. Do you think this argument would have even found a voice on September 12, 2001?"
Then there are things like this:
NEW YORK, Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – The human rights organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) will be hosting its second annual 9/11 Freedom Rally on September 11 at 3pm at Park Place and West Broadway.
While clergy, 9/11 first responders, and 9/11 family members are barred and/or not invited to the official ceremonies, all are welcome at the 9/11 Freedom Rally. And while White House guidelines forbid official 9/11 ceremonies from mentioning who attacked the U.S. on that day or why, the 9/11 Freedom Rally features more honest speakers.
I don't know how any thinking, compassionate American cannot feel ill after reading the paragraph above. People jumped out of those buildings rather than be burned to death. Firefighters rushed into the buildings to save others while knowing they would lose their own lives. Women lost their husbands, men lost their wives, children lost their mothers, and some lost their fathers before they were even born.
And whether we like to admit it or not, the atrocities of that day were carried out by Muslim extremists in the name of Allah. Even if the current regime in charge of the White House doesn't want to admit it, it's still the truth.
Do you remember? Do you remember the photos on the front pages of your newspapers of people, your fellow Americans, on American soil, covered in ashes to the point of being unrecognizable as they stumbled through the streets of New York desperate for safety, shelter, a sip of water, a breath of air?
In America? Our America?
I remember that night here in suburban Minneapolis. The sky was clear and dark and salted with a few stars. My neighbor and I were standing in her backyard talking when a military helicopter roared over her house. We knew the skies had been shut down and cleared of all traffic. The helicopter was flying low, and even though it was one of ours--there to keep us safe--for a moment we were terrified. We stopped talking and just sort of hung there in frozen time, as if our hearts had stopped from fear and needed to be jump started before we asked, "What the hell was that?"
Earlier that evening my church held a special service. I'll never forget the image of my daughter, dressed in black, hugging a fellow Sunday School friend as they sat on the steps outside. They stayed in each other's arms for a long time, her head resting on his shoulder. Then they held hands, as if not wanting to let go of one another for fear of losing the other before our next church service. I watched from the top of the steps with tears rolling freely down my face as I realized my children's generation had just become a generation at war. They had become a generation in which the sanctity of the American bubble that had always protected them was shattered by airplanes filled with hate and bound for death. They changed that day--the children. Forever.
That night my children slept in bed with me. Their father couldn't sleep and stayed up all night. My daughter held my hand as she slept, something she hadn't done since she was very small. When she was little, she always wanted to hold my hand as she slept if she was scared. I lay awake and heard another plane fly over the house. I gripped my sleeping child's hand a little tighter.
As I write this on the eve of the tenth anniversary of this terrorist attack on America, I am saddened by how far apart we've come. The weight of this horrible atrocity seems to have slipped from our shoulders, and we've become the frivolous, politically-correct society we were before this ever happened.
Of course we can't be a society hobbled by the hatred lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to kill us. We must move on.
But all I ask is that for tomorrow, please take a moment to remember. Really remember. Wherever you were in America, it hit you. It touched you.
It changed you.
Before this, you were safe. You are safe no more. You know it. You accept it. You scoff at it when you have to board a plane. It inconveniences you, but it does not effect you, not anymore.
I'm asking you, if only for one day, to let it effect you. Let in the fear of knowing you are never safe. Let in the knowledge that there are people on earth who hate you and what you stand for so much that they will kill you and your babies in the name of their cause without blinking an eye.
Then, see the issues of the day through those eyes. Is it better to to do as the White House says and not name our enemy? The Mosque near ground zero is still being built. Why are we protecting our enemy? I think some people act this way so they can appear "enlightened" in a world in which if you are against anything anyone does for any reason--particularly if those people happen not to be white Christians--you are called a bigot.
Islam is such a complex thing that it's nearly impossible to deconstruct. I know Muslim people who have Minnesota accents stronger than mine. I have personally seen the good side and the dark side of Islam. So I am not one of those who condemns all who cover their heads and pray five times per day. I just don't want the extremists to blow things up and kill Americans.
I understand the pull toward political correctness that is threaded through our country. But without a healthy dose of fear, wariness and protectiveness, I believe that pull will become so strong we'll all be taken along for the ride whether we like it or not, consequences be damned.
So, will you say three small words for me? If I ask you, "Will you remember?" will you answer,
"Yes, we will."