I still recall vividly the events of September 11th. I suppose it is one of those events that people recall years afterward, as my parents’ generation recalls where they were when they heard about JFK’s assassination.
I had just turned in my weekly senior seminar paper to the philosophy department. It was a nice, clear day and I decided to walk more leisurely back to the dorm than I otherwise would. As I came around the Basilica, I heard helicopters whizzing by. That was not an uncommon event in D.C. We had planes and helicopters go by rather frequently. But once I was all the way around to the front of the Basilica, I saw smoke rising in the distance. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was coming from, but it looked like downtown somewhere from my vantage point.
I crossed the street and before I was even inside the building, one of the secretaries came out of the front door and whisked me upstairs, saying something about a plane crashing in New York. I arrived in front of the television about a minute before the second plane hit.
That day, and the months that followed in D.C., were eerie. Police and military stationed in parts of the city I’d never seen them. Officers toting automatic weapons on the Metro. The center of town like a ghost town in what is usually an area bustling with tourists, businessmen, and government employees. Everything was quiet.
And September 11 brought to light, to me at least, the epic battle in which we are engaged. President Bush had it right. This is more than a few terrorists who chose a few buildings to target. No, this is about the fundamental way of life that we live. While the terrorists rightly take issue with our materialism and sexualizing of culture, this is at heart a religious war. The views of radical Muslims will never square with the aspirations of a free and democratic society.
I recommend to you The Looming Tower, which I read this summer. This book gives you a glimpse into the foundation of Al Qaeda and the issues that led to our current war on terror. It is a great historical journey that shows how we got to where we are today.
A Weigel book, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, is a great distillation of what is at issue in this fight. Weigel argues that the war is more about ideas than military might. It frames the issues of the war in the centuries-old theological disputes and helps the reader see what true victory will look like.
Finally, I leave you with George Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001. This was clearly one of his finest hours, and one of the finest addresses by a president in decades. Let us not only remember that day, September 11, for what it meant, but let us also remember the continued sacrifices made by those fighting for our freedom at home and abroad. May God protect you and bring you home soon.