September 11, 2001: a day that no American who lived to see will ever forget.
I was recently asked about where I was that day, and I remember it keenly, deeply. I think it’s a question every American has an answer to—a moment engraved in time.
Since it was early September, it was right in the middle of hop harvest. My cousin and I were working to unplug the picking machine, a more-than-common occurrence for hop farmers, when his wife called, crying.
Those first moments that morning were ones of disbelief. Then, justification—it must have been a mistake. In the hours and days that followed, as the true extent of the horrors and evil of that day came to light, pain, fear, and anger overpowered all.
America was grieving.
That day, that year, we collectively mourned the loss of our innocence. What seemed inconceivable had been executed coldly and effectually. New security protocols were put in place throughout the country, and you could no longer walk onto a plane at the last minute. There was fear, suspicion, and blame. And yet, America gained something.
Out of the ashes of tragedy, heroes emerged, and the determination to bring those responsible to justice brought us all together.
After that fateful day, communities banded together. People started placing American flag stickers on their cars or placed a flag outside their homes. Every other song on the radio was either Lee Greenwood or Toby Keith. Patriotism was stronger, America was stronger.
We also began a war that day, a war that would take thousands of American lives and drag on for nearly 20 years. We must never lose sight of the brave men and women in uniform that risked their lives on the front lines as they courageously fought to defend our freedoms.
Last week, President Biden ended the war in Afghanistan, but our war against terror is far from over. I condemn our president for his hasty withdrawal that left hundreds of Americans abandoned behind enemy lines, led to the deaths of 13 U.S. servicemembers, and placed billions of dollars of U.S. military weapons and equipment in the hands of the Taliban. His disorderly departure was a complete and utter policy failure which has left the United States’ credibility and trust from other nations in shatters and will take a long time to rebuild.
As the 20th anniversary of September 11 approaches, we look back to the events of that fateful day as a stark reminder that we must stay vigilant, that we must stay proactive, and that we must remain committed to preventing another terrorist attack on our homeland. We must also remember the ties that bind us together as we work to bring our countrymen home.
We fight for freedom because we remember 9/11. We are a compassionate country that rejects the evil of terrorism, and whose men and women sacrifice their lives for the liberties and rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens. The battlefield has broadened, but one constant remains: our democracy, our freedoms, and our way of life will not cower to acts and plots of terror and ruthlessness. We will persevere. God bless our troops, and may God continue to bless America.