Roby Column - September 12, 2011
Nearly two weeks ago, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman—the Al Qaeda leader who recently rose to replace Osama bin Laden—was killed, reportedly by U.S. forces in Pakistan.
This was another major victory against Al Qaeda’s global network, which is an “increasingly weakened organization.” Al-Rahman held the top Al Qaeda post for only a few weeks before he was located and removed from power.
Most shocking about this news: the little news coverage it actually received. Most Americans do not even know it happened.
Why is that?
In the decade since 9/11, Americans have understandably moved forward. We go about our daily lives, working hard in difficult times to make ends meet and provide for our families. Doing anything less would be a victory for those that hate freedom.
But, as time passes, we risk losing sight of the enormous task that remains in front of us.
While the images of that horrific day are seared in our minds—and while we are all aware of the constant threat that our nation now faces—we often take for granted the heroic acts of the thousands of Americans that work to keep us safe.
Every day and every night, 365 days a year, they are on the front lines, waging a vigilant and dangerous war against terrorists that seek to kill innocent Americans. Whether they fight on a battlefield in the Middle East or behind the scenes around the world, we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. They rarely ask for thanks, and even more rarely get it. Perhaps the best way for many of us to celebrate their amazing achievements is to simply never forget what they are fighting for.
So, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we pause to reflect.
Our personal stories shape the way we remember that day: where we were when the towers fell, who told us of the Pentagon attack, whom we knew in Washington or New York—the anxious moments when we stopped everything to turn on the news, find a phone, and check on a loved one.
I remember it well. On September 11, 2001, I was working on what would be the home that my husband Riley and I shared after we were married a month and a half later.
Seeing the images of New York on a TV that had been left on in the house, I froze. Having attended New York University in lower Manhattan, this was an especially crippling scene for me. With the gut-sinking feeling felt by all of us that day, I went back to my parent’s house to begin making calls to find my friends who still lived in New York.
Like all Americans, in the days and weeks that followed 9/11, I stayed glued to the TV. I hurt for our country, and I mourned the many lives lost. For me, the events of that day are still so raw that I find it incredibly difficult to watch any coverage of 9/11. The parents, siblings, and children who suffered, and all those who sacrificed their lives to save others—these are the victims forever memorialized on September 11.
Soon after that historic day, America began our attack on terrorism in Afghanistan. A “sleeping giant” awoke to defend her people. For the past 10 years, our country has remained vigilant.
My visit with our troops in Afghanistan in May made clear that they are making great progress in the fight on terrorism. The men and women serving our country demonstrate an unwavering commitment to protecting America’s freedoms. I witnessed an up-close perspective on the successes that our fighting forces are making on the ground. I was encouraged, to say the least, but also enlightened on how much work remains. The experience reinforced my belief that we must do whatever possible to keep our military and security forces well-equipped for the task.
But the War on Terror is not fought only in the Middle East. In the past 10 years, we have blocked several attempted terrorist attacks here at home. The failed attempts made by the “shoe bomber” in 2001, the “Christmas Day bomber” in 2009, and the “Times Square bomber” in 2010, is strong evidence that America must remain vigilant against terrorists.
Around the anniversary of 9/11, it is important to remember the heinous acts of those that hate our liberty and freedom, the great suffering of those who lost loved ones, the personal effect it had on each of us, and the dedicated team of Americans who ten years later stand guard each day to keep us safe.
And, when American forces are successful—such as the removal of al-Rahman from power—it is time for all Americans to pause, reflect, and say thank you to those who risk so much to defend our great nation.
God Bless each and every family that suffered loss on 9/11. Our prayers are with you.