As I try to put pen to paper on this subject, I am full of mixed emotions. I am so proud of America for the way its citizens have bounced back from this heinous act of cowardice. I am proud of all the young men and women who answered the call and volunteered themselves to go into harms way to protect this great nation. Many of which whom made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home. I am so proud of all the First Responders, Police and Fire Fighters who responded to the Towers to help others, who in turn, we lost. I am proud of all the military personnel who were serving at the time of the attacks. It is these people who put shoulder to wheel and made the things happen that needed to get done immediately. It is these people who secured the nation from further attack in those days following the disasters. I am proud of those on Flight 93 who, in the face of adversity, made up their minds not to go down without a fight and try and stop the hijackers from achieving their sick and twisted goal. I am proud of all the brave men and women who when attacked, and a great many of them wounded, stood up, to help those who could not help themselves, saving countless other innocent lives. It is because of this kind of spirit, that America truly is; “The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave”. It is this indomitable American sense of toughness that has and will see America through these trying times. No doubt, America has been through quit a lot. It survived the worst attack on is soil since Dec 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. On 9/11/01, almost 3 times the amount of people were killed than at Pearl Harbor. It sickens me and I feel ill to this day every time this time of year comes around.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was the Security Manager in charge of Security at the Pilots briefing area within the Fighter Wing. I worked literally elbow to elbow with the F-15 Fighter Pilots in my Unit. It was a normal Tuesday morning and my alarm had gone off as usual. As was my custom, I would turn the TV on to look at the news and get the local traffic conditions so I would know how to plan my commute to work. I live across a major river from my Base and the commute can be a real pain sometimes because we only have to bridges spanning the river. So watching the traffic in the AM was pretty important. As the TV came on, both my wife and I were immediately struck by what we were seeing. It was a live news feed from NY and the news people were talking about how a plane had crashed into one of the twin World Trade Center towers. We watched for just a short time when out of nowhere, another plane flew into the picture and crashed into the other undamaged tower. We watched in stunned silence as the plane crashed into the building, sending debris, fire and bodies everywhere. At that instant, I knew we were under attack. I jumped out of bed and threw on my uniform as fast as I could. I threw a few things into my “ditty bag”, kissed the wife goodbye, telling her I don’t know when I’ll be back home, but not to worry, I’d call if I got the chance.. When I arrived at the Installation, as expected there was a calm and serious sense of urgency being displayed by all. From the lowest Enlisted to the highest Officer, all were conducting themselves professionally and with purpose. As my duties put me right in with the Fighter Pilots, I was able to witness them set about getting ready to answer whatever call came down. Each Fighter Pilot was and is the consummate professional, each determined to do whatever it took to protect this nation from further attack. Normally these guys were a pretty happy bunch. Everyone poking fun at everyone else, each, with no shortage of Fighter Pilot confidence and bravado. But today was completely different. The fun time was over, and it was time to get down to business, and each one had their game face on. It was a sight to see. In short, I was and still am, awed by their presence. They are totally inspiring and I am so proud to have been able to not only witness them at work, but I am proud to have been able to serve with them and along side of them . They truly are “The Tip Of The Spear”.
In the days, weeks and months following 9-11, schedules began to slowly return to a more of a semblance of normalcy. Schedules got more normalized, and were once again predictable. There were still a lot of long hours, but as time went on, we began to realize that there may not be any further attacks involving aircraft. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief. Believe me, to a man, there was not a single pilot who looked forward to have to shoot down an airliner full of innocent people. That scenario was one only nightmares were made from….
However, now that we collectively look back in the years since 9-11-01, we have begun to realize that we may have paid a huge price for the apparent security we enjoy today. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the work that our Military and Law Enforcement people are doing behind the scenes, all so we can go about our daily lives, not worrying about this or that blowing up in our faces. But what really concerns me is the fact that when the Patriot Act was signed, (all well intended I’m sure) a lot of our civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, were severely trod upon, if not completely bent, broken or wiped out. Just look at what we citizens have to go through just to travel by air. Rather than target the threat directly, the DHS chooses the political correct path and subject innocent, non threatening people to invasive if not illegal searches. The DHS has used this crisis as an opportunity to categorize every citizen of this country as an “Extremist” of one kind or another. Even the veterans, the very people who preserve or freedom, did not escape the indignity and insult of being looked upon as extremists. The people in Congress and in the various law enforcement agencies have used this situation as an excuse to illegally spy on innocent people and illegally track and tap into all sorts of computerized data available via the web. I dare say, our Republic has taken a hard hit, thank to the zealots in our government. The really sad thing is, it didn’t have to go down that way. All it would have taken was to do the right thing and deal with the problem directly and do everything possible to NOT encroach on our civil rights.
Since 9-11, in these last 10 years, I would like to believe that our government has learned volumes about our adversaries. I would like to believe that many lessons have been learned and that it has been discovered that there are better, more ethical, less egregious ways to protect this nation that strike a better balance between security and our god given rights. If this balance is not found, the terrorists will have won because one of their biggest goals was to change our way of life. And at this point in time, we have changed, not for the better, and they have won. We as a nation and a people cannot allow this to stand. Our Elected Officials must insist that the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are once again respected by the people whom we trust in high offices throughout this nation. All those who fail to do so, must not be allowed to serve in the government. They are the antithesis to freedom and liberty and they must go. I can name many that are in the news on a daily basis today that fit that description. It is these people who are more concerned about power, and gathering more, than civil rights. It is these people I speak. It is that simple. Why? Because a Conservative American Vet said so, that’s why………….