War Memorial Post 30 in Camden shares the following message from the National American Legion on the 18th anniversary of 9/11.
Americans tend to personalize tragic events that occur in their lifetime by remembering where they were and what they were doing at that point in time.
Many of us recall where we were and what we were doing when John F. Kennedy was killed. We can recall where we were and our activities on the morning when the Challenger space shuttle blew up in 1986. We can recall with anguish when the government building was blown up in Oklahoma City.
Our ability to recall through sight, sounds and scents is accented by the horror associated with these tragic events and the helplessness you felt at the time.
Eighteen years ago, today, on September 11, 2001, four U.S. planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people in a matter of hours.
It is hard to imagine that any of us cannot recall what we were doing and where we were when you heard the news that the first aircraft had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. You experienced the horror by watching the carnage on television and you felt the concrete of helplessness weighing down on your heart.
I submit to you that as painful as it may be, it is sometimes a good thing to remember such events in this fashion. Because each time we gather in respect for the brave men and women who died in the 9/11 attacks, we participate in America’s efforts to ensure that such an event never happens again.
Through our commitment to remember we demonstrate to the terrorists America’s resolve to remember and to take action.
Without question, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, stunned our nation. We Americans acquired a newfound sense of our own vulnerability.
The passage of time will never diminish the sense of loss that we all feel for the victims of 9/11.
The best way we can honor and remember them and all the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coastguardsmen fighting the war on terror, is to continue to make them proud by showing our support and by our commitment to be ever vigilant.
We owe it to the men and women of 9/11 to never let this happen again. We owe it to them to be involved wherever and whenever we can to make sure that more innocent lives are not lost.
The legacy that they left behind was their love of life and respect for humanity. Love of life and respect for humanity are cornerstones of democracy. Just as it is important to stand our ground and to defeat terrorism, we must also demonstrate to the enemy our love of life and respect for humanity.
Let me share with you a true-life story that I think illustrates this point.
Gunnery Sergeant Mark J. Francis of the Marine Corp shared this story with The American Legion.
The image of the American soldier befriending the children of our enemies is nothing new. Some are dads and moms and others have younger siblings at home. They know that children are often caught in the middle of these terrible conflicts. Iraq is no different.
Sgt. Francis on patrol in the streets of Baghdad always asks friends and family members for toys to be sent over to him.
On each patrol through the city the Marines take as many toys as will fit in their pockets and hand them out as they can.
The Iraqi children take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks. The Marines are as friendly as they can be to everyone but especially to kids.
On one patrol, their lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street. The driver of the lead vehicle reported that a little girl sitting in the road. He said she just would not budge.
The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they could. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.
As the vehicles went around her, Sgt. Francis saw her sitting in the street with her little arms clutching a little stuffed bear that they had handed her a few weeks before.
The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward the Marine.
Francis got out of his vehicle and knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a land mine in the road.
Immediately a cordon was set as the Marine convoy assumed a defensive posture around the site. The mine was destroyed in place.
According to Francis, “It was the heart of an American that sent that toy. It was the heart of the American that gave that toy to the little girl. It was the heart of an American that protected that convoy from that mine.”
“Yes, she was a little Iraqi girl. But it was a heart of acceptance, of tolerance, of peace and grace, even through the harshness of conflict that saved the convoy from hitting that mine.”
These attributes are what keeps American’s hearts beating.
These attributes are what will keep the memory of the victims of 9/11 alive in our hearts forever.
They were the essence of “the free and the brave.” Standing up to terrorism and teaching others what is like to be free is the best way to remember the many who fell on 9/11.
May God bless them. And may God bless America.