By Jamie Neben
Instead of a day that would never be forgotten, the beginning of 9/11 seemed like just another Tuesday. Living in Columbus, Ohio, I arrived at work bright and early, ready for another fun-filled day of taking customer service calls for a large corporation. Since my start time was 7:00 AM., there was usually enough time between calls, at least during the first hour, to allow an opportunity to peruse the day’s early news on the computer. Although, my internet access was restricted in the office, an internal site listed the major headlines. The top stories of that day centered on Congressman Gary Condit’s possible connection to the disappearance of Chandra Levy. I read the updates of that story and a few others. By the time more calls trickled in, I felt like I had a comfortable grasp on world events. That is, until a co-worker came in just before nine and asked if anyone had heard the news from New York.
My co-worker was listening to the radio on the way to work and heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center as she pulled into the parking lot. Immediately after she gave us the details, as sketchy as they were, the second plane crashed into the South tower. In short order, we realized that our country was under attack and God only knew what would happen next. Of course, we ultimately saw the collapse of both towers, an attack on the Pentagon by a third hijacked plane, and the unimaginable bravery of the United 93 passengers, who overtook their hijackers and most assuredly prevented further death and destruction. This all occurred before the morning had even ended.
As the afternoon wore on, I struggled to keep up with the latest updates. Anybody who came back from a break was expected to deliver a report. Luckily, the phones were very quiet since people shifted their priorities to bigger things than their monthly bills. This gave the staff more chances to discuss what we were learning. Like most Americans, I had several questions that were running through my head. Who did this to us? Where did they come from? Why are they doing it? Are they finished?
Most importantly, once we had those answers, I wanted those responsible to pay dearly. Nobody messes with the U.S.A. and gets away with it!!!
I don’t regret for a single minute that our military went to Afghanistan and cleaned house. The bastards who supported the attack definitely had it coming to them. I strongly believe that agents of terror need to be found and eliminated. There is plenty of harm is still directed toward us. Indeed, we’ve seen would-be bombers attempt to blow up airplanes within the United States by using their shoes, underwear, and I’m afraid to know what else. A truck with explosives was found in Times Square just last year, but thankfully it failed to detonate according to plan. We must be relentless to make certain that these evil plots are discovered and squashed early. The fact that another substantial attack has not occurred inside our borders is a testament to the vigilance of everyone involved with our safety.
However, this is not to suggest that I have applauded every decision made on behalf of our national security. I believe that we took our eyes off the prize, so to speak, by not committing enough resources to Afghanistan, and then on top of that, occupying Iraq. As a result, we are still present in both countries ten years later, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen when we’re finally gone. If we had sent a more appropriate troop level to Afghanistan from the very beginning, we might well have cornered Osama Bin Laden years ago and better stabilized the region for the long term.
Even when fighting the enemy, we must not forget our principles, nor lose sight of our inalienable rights. America is often identified with high moral standards, and if that’s true, we don’t get to pick and choose when we’ll uphold them. If we’ve maintained that torture is wrong, exceptions are never in order. Holding individuals for years without a hearing is simply not the American way. Likewise, our own civil liberties should be cherished and protected. I understand the need for precautionary measures at the airport, but racial profiling goes too far. So does government invasion into our everyday lives to include scanning our emails, checking our library records, and wiretapping our phones without a warrant. Some argue that those actions don’t matter if one has nothing to hide. But every human being has a fundamental right to privacy, and once it’s relinquished, it’s damn near impossible to take back. The bad guys have cause for celebration on any occasion that makes us less American.
Finally, on this tenth anniversary, I would implore every citizen to remember the reasons why we are a great nation. Our founders understood one of those reasons–the concept of freedom–very well as they crafted our democracy. I’m concerned that we are going astray of their wishes. With so much hate-filled speech going around these days, it’s questionable whether some people desire any freedom besides their own. Our population is a diverse one, represented by many colors, religions, and backgrounds. Let’s spend more time thinking about how we can include everybody in our society rather than fighting over our differences. Most of the world felt our loss that September morning because we are a shining example of liberty and justice for all.
Let’s keep it that way.