“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”
I’m not a fan of country music because of the generally unwholesome lyrics, but occasionally I’ll hear a song that resonates, and Alan Jackson’s song about 9/11 is one of those.
The point of his song is to evoke remembrance of that fateful day. Jackson himself, talking about how the song came to be, said, “Looking back, I guess I just didn’t want to forget how I felt on that day and how I knew other people felt.”
Well, I haven’t forgotten, and I’m sure most of you haven’t either.
I remember walking into my college class that morning to the live breaking news reports of the first plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and then just a few minutes later the second plane hitting the South Tower.
I remember the other planes crashing, one into the Pentagon, and one in a field in Pennsylvania. I remember the towers collapsing.
I recall the craziness of the town I lived in while attending college. There was fear and chaos and lines of cars attempting to get gas like I had never witnessed before.
I spent the day glued to the TV watching the events of a real attack on America unfold before my young, 19 year old eyes.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the images of devastation and death as I saw footage of people jumping from windows just to escape the fire and smoke.
I remember as my roommates and I watched President Bush that night address the nation in the midst of all the uncertainty. I remember his comforting words:
“A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil - the very worst of human nature - and we responded with the best of America.”
I remember how an attack that the terrorists meant for evil, in turn caused more national unity and patriotism than I’d seen in my lifetime. American flags could be found on nearly every corner and front porch. Flags were in such high demand there were times it was difficult to find one to purchase.
I remember what it meant to be a patriot, and how it was a given that red-blooded, flag waving, freedom loving Americans were the good guys, and anyone who sought to threaten our liberty was the bad guy.
My How Times Have Changed
We live in a different country than we did 20 years ago, and the juxtaposition of this nation then and now is startling.
We Agreed Who the Enemy Was
After the attacks there was an increased focus on national defense, with special attention placed on terrorists in a way it never had been before. Most Americans agreed this was good. It just makes sense. Let our military find the bad guys and terminate with extreme prejudice.
Twenty years later, those still filled with patriotism, those who believe our country is exceptional, want to see our nation lead, and believe in an America first agenda, are now seen as the enemy, while our real threats are ignored. We are considered by our own government as one of our nation’s biggest domestic threats.
Consider the irony. Our Southern border is hemorrhaging with thousands of unvetted immigrants coming from who knows where and bringing in who knows what. Additionally, following our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, government officials plan to resettle thousands of Afghan refugees here. The government continues to decline to comment on just how many will come, but most estimates range from 50 to 65,000. They claim these are vetted, but I have my suspicions.
It seems these two issues alone would be much greater domestic threats than a person who wears MAGA apparel and proudly waves the American flag, but what do I know.
We Had Overwhelming Support for Uniformed Personnel
After the attacks there was a newfound pride in, and support for, Law Enforcement Officers (LEO), first responders, and military servicemembers.
Young men and women around the country were appalled that an enemy would strike us on our own soil, and thus felt a responsibility to do something, prompting a surge in enlistments in the various military branches.
Top officials who led the various sectors – whether LEO, first responders, or military – knew and agreed that terrorists were our biggest threat, so they prepared and trained accordingly.
We truly seemed to be a united nation with a clear enemy and a certain goal – defend and protect our freedom.
Twenty years later there are calls nationwide to defund and abolish LEO’s, and our top military officers seem to have gone “woke.”
Recently, General Mark Milley, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended Critical Race Theory in the military and said we need to “understand white rage.” (Because, you know, us patriotic white men pose a real threat to this country.)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made clear in his confirmation hearings that one of his priorities would be combatting racism and extremism in the ranks of the military. After he was confirmed, he issued a “stand down” to take time to address extremist ideology in the Department of Defense. He is also on record supporting transgenders in the military, as well as stating that climate change “is making the world more unsafe and we need to act,” and believes it is “a national security issue.”
Quite the shift in focus, wouldn’t you agree.
We Had Quality Leadership
After the attacks we had overwhelming support for, and confidence in our leader. George W. Bush, who had become president nine months earlier, received a job approval jump of 35 percentage points in only three weeks.
According to a recent Pew Research poll, by “late September 2001, 86% of adults – including nearly all Republicans (96%) and a sizable majority of Democrats (78%) – approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president.”
Contrast that with Joe Biden’s ineptitude and poor leadership on full display in our recent withdrawal from Afghanistan. Though the withdrawal was approved of by most Americans, an abysmal 26% approved of Biden’s handling of it. As a result, his approval ratings have slid to just 43% in the latest Marist poll.
President Bush united the nation and gained tremendous support, while Joe Biden has further divided the nation and lost support.
Furthermore, our so-called leaders’ disrespect of our fallen servicemembers recently is inexcusable. I’m sure you’ve seen the images of Biden checking his watch multiple times during the dignified transfer of 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan.
It’s not just Biden though. When Congress convened recently, Speaker Pelosi refused a request by Republicans to read the names of the 13 fallen servicemembers.
Different World, Different Nation
The times, they sure have changed.
Change is not always bad, but the changes I’ve witnessed over the last twenty years, for the most part, have not been for the better.
I remember 9/11/01.
In the midst of the deadliest attack on American soil in history, I remember a nation that put aside its differences and truly appeared to be “one nation under God.”
It may be a lofty desire, but my prayer is that we may be again.