Next year, men and women who have lived their entire lives in a post-9/11 world will be old enough to join the military. I wish I could tell them what the world was like before they were born, because it was a different place. We were more innocent, maybe, or more naive.
The day is seared in my memory, of course, like everyone else – the smoke, the fear, the shared experience of realizing in one agonizing instant that we were under attack – but more than anything else, I cannot forget the jumpers. Anyone who has been in a protector role – officially or unofficially – can relate to the impotent feeling of watching desperate, innocent people take fate into their own hands because no one could help them. They shared their last seconds of life with others in the same, tragic predicament; but in the end, they died alone and we could do nothing to save them.
I do not know if life will ever be the same again. I doubt it. I have met countless men and women whose lives have been irrevocably changed because of that one beautiful, sunny, horrible day in September, sixteen years ago. As a people we are more cautious, more suspicious, more jaded. Maybe that is the cost of living in a free society where evil forces plot against us every day, dreaming of a world without America in it.
So be it.
I choose to take comfort in the fact that we are better and stronger than them, and that our compassion for each other does not extend to those we see as a threat. Our military is out there fighting them now, and given the tools and support they need, they will eliminate that threat.
Until then, I will pray for those who died, stay prepared, and show my support for those fighting the fight.