NOTE FROM NORM: 20 Years Later, We The People Remain
At 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian time on December 7th, 1941, an estimated 353 airplanes of the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor. Over 2,300 American servicemen were killed, with over 1,100 more wounded.
American naval ships were sunk, destroyed or severely damaged.
Eighty years later America still remembers this insidious attack on America. Eighty years later the fallen soldiers lost in the attack are still being returned to families across America.
On Saturday, September 11th America will commemorate 20 years since the attacks against America by the terrorist group. Al Qaeda, aided and abetted by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 people – 2,600 Americas – and more than 370 of other nationalities – from 90 different countries –died at the hands of 19 terrorists using four airplanes.
As America still reels from the murder of 13 American service women and men in Afghanistan at the hands of another terrorist group, ISIS-K, the American people know all too well that freedom is never free.
Throughout the years in talking with men and women who lived through Pearl Harbor, and World War II, including my own father, I remain struck by the fury that remained inside them that such a brazen attack would take place on American soil. An attack as unexpected as it was shocking and bold made the nation understand that no matter how large our nation, or how vast the oceans that separated us from the rest of the world, remaining vigilant in a dangerous world was paramount to protecting and preserving our liberties and freedom.
As an American who, like millions of others in this country, and billions around the world, watched as America was attacked by cowards determined to destroy our beliefs, values and ideals, that same fury remains inside me still today.
I watched, horrified, as human beings leapt from burning buildings – as desperate first responders ran into the flames to save human beings only to lose their own lives in their heroic efforts.
Seeing the damage inflicted on the Pentagon, and the deep injury to a Pennsylvania farm field, left me shaken to my core.
Americans saw in real-time the carnage of terrorist attacks against America on 9/11. Americans wouldn’t see the true scope of the carnage against the nation at Pearl Harbor for days or weeks and even months after the fact.
American resolve in 1941 sustained the nation through World War II and long after as we continued to do battle against our enemies who remained determined to destroy the values of freedom and liberty that are at the cornerstone of all that we are as a country.
Today, twenty-years after 9/11, there are those who question American resolve and wonder, openly, whether America’s commitment to freedom and liberty remain as steadfast today as it was for the decades after Pearl Harbor.
To the 13 American Heroes who died in Afghanistan there is no doubt in my mind that freedom and liberty was at the core of their service to this nation. To the thousands of men and women who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the thousands more who sustained injuries in the defense of American ideals, there can be no question that their service mattered then – and matters even more today.
Americans from one corner of the nation to another rallied to the cause of liberty and freedom after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The passion of patriotism was everywhere. The same was true after the attacks of 9/11. It didn’t matter if you lived in the farm towns of Middle America or the urban dwellings of the East and West Coast. Everyone who was an American felt that an attack on one of us was an attack on all of us.
Something has happened in America since 1941 and 2001 that has seemingly weakened this sense of national unity. Whether real or imagined the perception is that America is far more divided than we are united in the cause of liberty and justice for all. Our enemies, foreign and domestic, seek to foment dissent in every corner of American life and the nation’s media has become little more than a megaphone to amplify grievances, large and small, against every aspect and institution of American life.
There is no single party, ideology, or person to blame for what many around the world see as a decline in American purpose and power. In the end, We, the People, bear the responsibility for whatever discord has arisen that has made it more difficult and treacherous to find common ground in America.
We, the People, chose how we respond to the challenges and crisis that confront us as a nation. While our leaders, elected or otherwise, are obligated to stand up and serve in the roles in which they have assumed, it is our responsibility to hold them accountable to the promises and purpose for which they serve.
Americans in 2021 have an obligation to uphold the ideals, the beliefs, the freedom, the liberty, and the democracy that Americans fought and died for in 1941 – in 2001 – and every year before, during and after.
We have a responsibility to remember that in the moments before their lives ended there were brave men and women like Minnesota’s own Tom Burnett who, alongside others, realized that all that stood between the terrorists flying their plane and the future of American Democracy was We, the People, huddled together in the walkway of the Boeing 757-222 hatching a plan to stop them from doing so.
Spurred on by the charge “Let’s Roll”, Burnett, Todd Beamer, Mark Beamer, Jeremy Glick, and others charged the cockpit causing the terrorists to fly Flight 93 into what has become hallowed ground in Pennsylvania and not the White House or the United States Capitol.
On this solemn day of remembrance let us not forget that the only thing standing between those who wish to destroy America and everything we believe in as a nation is We, the People.