As I write this, it is 11 years, to the minute, since hijacked United Airlines flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower.
I watched it happen, live on ABC, eyes still blurred from sleep, half-thinking it was some bizarre nightmare still playing out in the last few minutes of my slumber.
But knowing, from the swelling lump in my throat and the first churnings of nausea in my gut, that it was all too real.
I was just beginning my first full week of unemployment, and had resolved the previous evening to begin my job search in earnest, first thing that Tuesday morning. My tv was set to turn itself on, at high volume, at 9am.
But, instead of looking for work, I never left the house that day. I sat on the couch, flipping between the 4 channels I had at the time, watching the day’s horror unfold, in living color, on the television before me.
The completed job applications sat on the glass coffee table, utterly forgotten, as a million questions, hundreds of fears, and a growing wave of confusion and uncertainty about all of them quickly replaced the now-trivial financial concerns that had been weighing me down for the four days prior.
I thought of my son, then six months old, and spent a good portion of the day attempting to get in touch with his mother. I would not succeed in that for two more days.
I had just learned, three weeks before, that he was my son, through a letter in the mailbox informing me of the paternity test results. I was not prepared to be a father (and who ever really is?), and had only seen him 4 times since his birth.
But that day, all I wanted to do was hold him, cradle him, and show him he had a dad, and not just a donor. I knew, even in those early hours of 9-11, that the world, which he was not even close to being fully aware of yet, would be forever changed, in ways both terrifying and uplifting. In either instance, life would never be the same.
When I couldn’t reach his mom, I did something I hadn’t done for a long time, at that point in my life. I did what I thought would be the next best thing: I prayed.
I prayed for him, and for his mother, and for their safety. I prayed for the families of those on the planes and in the buildings, and for those still struggling to make it outside.
And I prayed for those who cast aside their fears and self-concern, and rushed inside to help them get out.
I prayed for our nation, and its leaders, and not only for their safety, but that God would lend them wisdom to discern the threat, the culprits, and the response.
I knew, as most of us did at the time (though some have forgotten), that there must be a response. I watched the smoke from the fires mingle with the dust from crumbling concrete and drywall, and knew that both would soon be overshadowed by the fog of war.
Indeed, they already were. War was brought to us, just as surely as it had been on a December morning 60 years before.
But no liberty-loving individual ever seeks war. Liberty depends upon a vibrant civil society, wherein mutual respect for the rights of others is the cornerstone of all other interactions.
War and force are generally antithetical to that premise, except when force is necessary for the purpose of reasserting that premise. This is the reason for laws, and the enforcement mechanism they entail.
The terrorists who carried out those horrific attacks violated the laws of nature, by resorting to force and stripping 3,000 fellow human beings of their God-given rights to their lives, their liberties, and their pursuit of their own happiness.
And I can imagine that terrorists like those of 9-11, and influential people in governments across the globe who fund their terrorist activities, were applauding and chuckling last week, when “God-given” was removed from the Democrat party platform.
I’m sure they saw, too, the irony of forcing those words back into the platform, the following day, in a decidedly undemocratic fashion.
But whether those terrorists or those delegates like it or not (for different reasons, I’m sure), this nation was founded on a covenant with God, first stated by George Washington on a lonely battlefield in Pennsylvania, and witnessed by Isaac Potts.
That is just as much a part of our nation’s history as 9-11, and just as transformational, regardless of the existence of television footage.
Is it any wonder that, as government grows and insinuates itself into man’s relationship with his maker (and, at certain points, even seeks to place it), our society further erodes?
Our culture, our respect for our fellow men and their rights, and even our fiscal security: all of these have coarsened, crumbled, and virtually collapsed, much like those towers, since the beginnings of the “Progressive Era.”
This is not coincidence. This is the inevitable result of the progressive ideology, and its tacit hostility to individual, and, yes, God-given, free will. The fact that we allowed this ideology to take root, in America, denotes our conscious betrayal of that covenant.
We came to terms, after 9-11, with the dire threat of terrorism, and the danger of not confronting and destroying it wherever it lurks. And we renewed our resolve to do just that, if for a short time.
So, too, must we now resolve to confront the evils of progressivism, and the cultural rot they foment, every single time they are allowed to take hold of a society. We must resolve to root out every last vestige of them. No quarter can be given.
This is the most lasting tribute we can give, to those who lost their lives on 9-11, and to those who pledged, before God, their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defend and preserve those rights He bestowed.
In every civilization, in every age, and in every generation, there are pivotal moments. Triumphs and crises alike that bring a people together to work toward a goal.
And, in times of crisis, human nature compels us to look for leaders who will rise above the confusion and confidently point us in a direction, right or wrong.
We want to trust them, and believe that direction is the right one. But, when the leader we turn to is a flawed mortal, like ourselves, we are eventually, inevitably, let down.
Look, instead, not to government, but to a higher authority. One that ordered the footsteps of this nation from its humblest beginnings, and nurtured it into the greatest bastion of liberty and good will the world has ever known. But only as long as we honored the covenant.
Pray. Seek firm answers in times of crisis. And steel your resolve to remember that covenant, to restore it and, moreover, to renew it.
The very future of your children, grandchildren, and, yes, my son who is now 11 1/2, depend on it.