I was in Babenhausen, Germany doing a live fire when my phone started ringing. It was my mom. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. They weren’t sure what had happened, but it might have been terrorism. Then she gasped. The second one had hit. There could be no doubt. A barrage of thoughts spun through my mind as I consoled my mother, who was now sobbing at our nation’s loss.
We got our immediate orders. We were to secure the bases and families in the vicinity. We had no idea if it was over.
Driving through the German streets under arms was a surreal feeling. We were shocked and angry – most of all though, we felt we had failed. Our people were murdered by our enemies. It had been our job to keep them safe, and we hadn’t lived up to our end of the bargain. It was now in the hands of our brothers in the NYPD and FDNY to save as many innocents as they could. As we all know, they performed this duty bravely, repeatedly placing themselves in harm’s way – they would leave no man behind while blood coursed through their veins.
Much has been said about this day since – it has been politicized, bastardized, and used as a rallying cry for people of all political perspectives. I prefer to simplify things a bit.
On that day, the world witnessed the best and the worst of human nature.
One man planned and executed the murder of thousands of helpless, innocent civilians.
Heroes – not fearless Hollywood ones full of glib one-liners, but rather the kind that knew exactly what they were risking – repeatedly stormed into burning buildings to save those same civilians that one evil man would see killed.
These men were the best our country had to offer, and while there was nothing that could erase the horror of that day, their strength sparked in me, my compatriots, and the nation the fire that we needed to recover and fight on.
And we have.
One year ago, I received the greatest gift I have ever been given – upon his return from his most recent tour in the middle east, my friend Dan bestowed upon me an American flag that flew over the 1/75 Ranger Battalion Headquarters in Iraq on September 11th, 2006.
I look at that flag as both a symbol of our nation’s strength and fortitude as it has recovered from a brutal attack, but more importantly, as a symbol of our nation’s best. I know that our Armed Forces are out there, along with law enforcement officers and first responders on our home front, keeping our nation safe. I know that while we are at home dealing with the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, they are in the most dangerous of places, ever-vigilant, standing their hard posts without complaint; chin straps tightened and meticulously cleaned weapons at the ready.
Thank you gentlemen. We owe you everything.
Copyright of Nick