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September 11, 2023

Today is the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th, 2001, attacks, the deadliest attacks on America in history. Those of us who were alive then will never forget that morning, when we woke up and felt we must still be asleep and having a nightmare. 

First, a passenger jet slammed into the World Trade Center, and there was some thought it might be a horrific aviation disaster. But when it happened again, there was no denying that America was under attack, and in a way that we had never seen before: by an enemy so ruthless and fanatical that they would destroy a skyscraper filled with innocent people, using a plane filled with innocent people as a weapon, and who were such zealots that they would sacrifice their own lives just to kill as many people as possible.

Those of us who were there will never forget the grief, horror and confusion. For months afterward, we felt a tinge of alarm whenever a plane flew overhead at a low altitude.

America learned a very hard lesson that day about the hollowness of the comforting delusion that all cultures were basically like us and held the same peaceful, tolerant values. We also learned hard lessons from some of the wrongheaded reactions to the attack, like the willingness to trade our freedom for a (false) sense of security. To this day, airline travel is still an intrusive, time-wasting ordeal, and has all that TSA groping and probing and throwing away of our shampoo ever stopped a single attempted terrorist hijacking?

Yet we also seem to have forgotten most of the lessons we learned from 9/11 and its aftermath. When COVID struck, many people were more than willing to hand over even more of their Constitutionally-protected freedoms to the government in exchange for false promises of safety.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we put aside our differences and united around our common heritage, humanity and values as Americans. For instance, people in Texas stood in long lines to donate blood to help victims in New York City. There was none of today’s red/blue animosity and division, some of which is organic due to differing beliefs, but much of which is ginned up by politicians, activists and media figures whose own power increases when they can divide us and pit us against each other.  This is why Darryl Worley wrote a new version of his 9/11 anthem, “Have You Forgotten?” It’s called “Have We Forgotten?”

Another forgotten lesson: even though it took just 19 hijackers to carry out 9/11 and kill nearly 3,000 people, our President has thrown open our border, allowing millions of unvetted people to come streaming in from all over the world, including many whom we know are on terror watch lists. That same President recently handed Afghanistan back to the same terrorists who gave sanctuary to the plotters of 9/11, and left them a huge trove of our military equipment in the bargain. And word is that his Administration is cutting a deal with the 9/11 architects to save them from the death penalty.

As hard as it is for those of us who lived through 9/11 to fathom how any Americans could tolerate this, we must remember that 9/11 was 22 years ago. That means there’s now an entire generation of young adults who have no personal memories of 9/11. They grew up in a virtual police state that focuses more on infringing on the rights of citizens than fighting terrorists, with schools teaching that America is the source of all evil, and with social media telling them that treasured Western values like privacy rights, free speech and personal freedom are obsolete.

That’s why, as hard as it may be to relive that darkest day in US history, it’s important to teach your children what happened and why, because it will be up to them to make sure it never happens again, and those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I urge you, if your children are old enough to understand it without being traumatized, that you take them to a 9/11 commemoration or watch one on TV with them. Or visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York, or the new 9/11 Remembered Traveling Memorial. On this weekend’s “Huckabee,” I interviewed its founder, Erick Robertson. You can watch that here, and find a link to the traveling memorial site where you can invite it to visit your town.

On this 9/11 anniversary, let’s remember that time when all Americans put aside our differences and came together to save America. Let’s mourn the dead, remember the heroes and reflect on what we all have in common and what makes America the greatest nation on Earth, the one that is still under relentless attack by the enemies of freedom but is strong, resolute and resilient enough to withstand any blow, come back and win.

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