Senator Michael B. Enzi
To Mark the Passage of Ten Years
Since the Events of 9/11
Throughout the history of the United States, each generation has had at least one iconic moment – one moment in time that served to galvanize the nation and call each and every American to take on a cause much greater than themselves. Ultimately, the results they were able to achieve served to define who they were as a generation and what they were capable of both as individuals and as a nation.
For my father, that moment was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As we watched with growing concern, a terrible evil had taken the whole world to the brink of war. Now we found we no longer had a choice as to whether or not we would get involved. We were forced to take action and bring our military might to bear against an enemy that had set its sights on world domination.
As soon as the call went out, brave men and women from all across the country volunteered to serve in our military and take up arms to defend the rights and liberties we all cherish as Americans. They soon proved to be worthy of the task as we once again showed that ours was the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. Thanks to them, the tyranny and oppression that threatened to overwhelm Europe was halted and peace and freedom was once again restored to a war weary world.
Returning home from the battlefields on which they had served with distinction, our servicemen and women took up another great challenge – to rebuild our nation and restore it to greatness. Their commitment and dedication to that great mission helped to make the United States what it is today. Thanks to them, their sons and daughters received the greatest gift they could possibly receive – our American way of life. Their actions made it clear that the American Dream belongs to everyone and it really can come true if we are willing to do whatever is necessary to make it happen.
For me and my generation, our iconic moment came with the news that the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik into space. In that brief moment in time, we were once again filled with that same determination as we realized that we were in second place in the race for space, as it was called. That would never be acceptable – or accepted.
In the days after that startling announcement, people of all ages found themselves looking to the skies, wondering if we could answer this daunting challenge. Our curiosity and our ingenuity would again be put to the test, as we all tried to help in the effort to bring about that “one giant leap for mankind” that wasn’t to come for several more years.
My friends and I banded together although we were all very young to help. We wanted to learn all we could about rockets and so we became rocketeers – or at least we tried our best to be worthy of the title. Once again we had a difficult goal to reach for and we were proud to think of ourselves as part of that call to action.
President John F. Kennedy then issued his challenge to the nation – that we would send a man to the Moon and return him safely to the Earth. It sounded impossible, but with American know-how, we were able to develop and put into action a plan to make it happen.
When the time came, the world watched with wonder and amazement as Neil Armstrong took those first steps on the moon and proved once again that whatever goals we set we always seem to find the tools and the talent we need to get the job done.
For my children, their generation’s iconic moment came on September 11, when we were once again cruelly attacked by terrorists who had hijacked several planes and used them to destroy the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon. It was a moment in time that everyone will long remember for the impact that day and the events surrounding it had on our world and our lives – an impact that continues to be felt.
Even though it was ten years ago, for almost all of us the images of September 11 are still fresh in our minds. We can remember where we were when we first heard the news that our nation was under attack. We can remember how we felt as we watched the Twin Towers fall, and, the sense of loss as the harsh reality of all the lives that were lost that day became all too real.
There were many lessons learned as we watched the rescue crews along with our police and firemen attempt to save as many as they could from the building – and then – from the wreckage. It was a harsh reminder of how delicate and precious our lives are and how that gift can be taken from us at a moment’s notice.
Yet out of all that was lost, there was the birth of something even greater, something more powerful and enduring. It was this sense of community, this sense of country that bound us together as one nation- as one America. We stood side-by-side with our neighbors, our families and even complete strangers, looking out for one another and helping those in need.
Those who wanted to hurt us sent a clear message, yet we sent another. American flags sprung up in every yard, flew from every building and hung even from our overpasses. The powerfully simple message of the stars and stripes was our message. We are America and we stand together.
Like those moments before us, the morning’s light the next day brought with it a firm resolve that we would, once again, come together as one to address the attack. Political differences would no longer separate us. Concern for our shared future was so strong – it would unite us to face this threat to our well-being. Together we resolved that we would do everything we could to ensure that terrorism would never again take such a terrible toll from our nation or any other nation. I remember during that time being at an event where ambassadors from around the world offered an outpouring of sympathy and comfort for our grieving nation. I was touched by their sympathy and care for America. I was also pleased so many countries helped us follow the money trails which lead to the arrest and prosecution of countless terrorists.
In the years since that terrible day, justice has also been delivered by our brave servicemen and women who have once again answered the call to duty and taken up arms to rid the world of the network of terror – wherever it is found. Thanks to their efforts nations that had never known freedom before now dare to dream of a better tomorrow – for themselves and their children. People who had lived in fear under the tyranny of oppression will now have a say in their shared future as citizens of the world. Those who had known nothing but anguish and despair now have a reason to hope for a better life. The Middle East is still in turmoil as the people reach for freedom and equality.
C.S. Lewis once said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I think it is clear that the pain we felt on that day was sufficient to rouse us all to action as it opened our hearts and our minds to God and to each other.
In the days to come, the memories of all that we witnessed on September 11 will stay with us and serve as a constant reminder that freedom isn’t free. It often comes to us at all too great a cost. In that spirit, we will never forget those who lost their lives that day, their loved ones and all who knew them and called them their friends. For this generation and those to follow, their memory will continue to inspire us to be ever vigilant and constantly on guard at the gates of freedom to ensure that this, “one nation, under God, indivisible” will continue to be the home of “liberty and justice for all” for ourselves, for our children, and for many generations to come.
Let’s remember September 11 and the feelings we had for our country and each other. May we rekindle the sense of community, country and world that we felt then. May lasting good come out of the chaos.