Fifteen years ago on September 11, 2001, I was a 26 year old college freshman having finished serving eight years on active duty in two branches of the United States Armed Forces.
It was a beautiful day. I was sitting down in a study area to complete my algebra homework when another student raced down the hall saying that “the towers were on fire and jet liners had been flown into buildings”.
In disbelief I asked him what movie he was talking about. The serious brevity of his response, “this is real”, was jarring. Together we ran to the student union to stand at the back of a packed room to watch The World Trade Center towers fall and the Pentagon burn on an old big screen TV.
Everyone reading this who remembers 9-11 has their own memory of exactly where they were and what they were doing, as well as the raw emotions that overwhelmed us.
Looking back, I often think of the victims and their families. The images of the heroic, steely-eyed firefighters resolutely marching into the inferno knowing that they were likely taking their last breathes of soot singed air poignantly standout. In they went, the living embodiment of courage and selfless sacrifice.
The gravity of the day was astounding. No words can properly describe 9-11 which is why all anyone needs to do is say the date and instantly the memories come flooding back.
The third stanza in the song “America the Beautiful” seems uniquely appropriate when thinking of these things.
“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!”
The beauty of this “heaven-rescued land” we call the United States of America was displayed by the best of us in our worst moment. When challenged by evil men, countless good men and women stood forward and gave the last full measure of devotion to save others. This is the American spirit we love.
Being willing to lay it all down “so that others may live” in freedom is the battle we have been engaged in since that fateful day. As long as there are good and decent, freedom loving Americans willing to give of themselves for the sake of others there is no challenge we cannot overcome.
May God bless our heroes, the innocents, and the families they left behind. And may God richly bless the United States of America.
In honored remembrance,
Ryan Johnson, President of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom