September 11, 2001, Lest We Forget

Senator Jim Nielsen
California State Senate, 4th District

It is said “Time heals all.” I beg to differ. The vast wounds inflicted on America and Americans just ten years ago will never completely heal. Usually, celebrations or anniversaries are happy times. Not this one! Yet, I find it important and even pertinent to who we are and who we want to become as a nation, to remember the day of September 11th, 2001.

This was a somber day in American history when more than 3,000 Americans lost their lives in the most egregious act of terrorism to ever hit the shores of our great nation. As we approach the 10th anniversary of that dark day, California remembers those who have fallen and the heroic efforts to keep this country safe from that terrorist act and from further attacks.

Death, terror, desperation, loss of those dear to us, loss of sense of security and peace of mind—none of these are pleasant memories of that day that has changed America forever. Yet, we have used and can still use these painful experiences to make us stronger and more committed to maintaining a strong nation. We have a history of building on hardships from the inception of our nation. Out of hard times such as 9/11 America became a beacon unto the world.

Today, however, I’m seeing a pattern of complacency and forgetfulness. Time does fade the severity of the memory for those less affected. This diminished concern about 9/11, will have dire consequences as complacency empowers and emboldens our enemies.

Through the ensuing years we have lost some of our smug, isolationist feelings of security. We are daily, though vicariously, reminded of the evil forces at play in other nations on the evening news. We have forgotten we are at war with terrorists and that they, very passionately, plot our demise. We tolerate the inconvenience at airports, yet as we do, the reason for the inconvenience is lost.

The night of the 5th anniversary of 9/11 Dennis and Terri Kesselring called me from an “America Says Thank You” memorial, dismayed that there was a sparse assembly. Have we grown even more complacent on the occasion of the 10th anniversary? I fear we have.

The danger in forgetting our past and in being complacent in the present, is that history can and will repeat itself if we don’t do something about it. I wonder if America is better prepared today than it was 10 years ago to face a similar tragic event. I wonder what lessons we have learned, both collectively and individually as a result of the 9/11 attacks on our country. Do we treasure our nation more? Do we value our freedoms more? Are we committed to giving back and to sacrificing in order to maintain our security both at home and abroad?

Saddam Hussein is dead and Muammar Gaddafi is on the run. Now that Osama bin Laden has been removed from our enemy’s mantle of leadership, we can rejoice that an evil mastermind is gone, but we must stay ever vigilant to keep our country safe.

Just a while back many people were more preoccupied with the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and whether they should have civil trials, than they were with the safety of Americans. Certainly these folks forgot 9/11 and that justice is for victims as well as for the accused.

There is a lot of hope to be had. That’s what makes our nation so great. But greatness is dependent upon our commitment to fighting for what’s right. On this day of remembrance, I ask that you take time out of your day to thank those around you who have fought hard for our country and for our values. Please remember our nation’s armed forces and emergency responders who diligently work to keep us safe on a daily basis.

One way you can remember is by flying your American flag on September 11th. This is an easy way to join together in remembering the atrocities that happened on this date and the progress that we have made since in the eternal fight for freedom.

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