Most everyone remembers exactly what they were doing sixteen years ago on that fateful morning of September 11, 2001. For most Americans, depending on their time zone, they had recently arrived at work or school, were on their way to work or school, or were waking up and preparing for the day. It was going to be a routine Tuesday in a routine week.
At 8:46 a.m. (EDT) the first report came over the airwaves. An aircraft crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. I did not hear this initial report as I had recently arrived at work. A colleague came to my office and told me that something strange just happened; a plane had just flown into one of the twin towers in New York City. I thought that it was probably a small private aircraft that more than likely killed the pilot and the one or two people who might have been on the plane. She said on the radio they were saying that it appeared to be a big plane and that it damaged the tower. I was a little perplexed and we both went to the conference room and turned on the TV. The first image I recall seeing was some pretty substantial smoke coming from the tower followed by somber sounding newscasters. They were reviewing raw video of the crash, and in the video we saw what appeared to be an airliner and became glued to the television as all sorts of people started to weigh in. It was not very long before we saw yet another aircraft slam into the south tower. I recall experiencing a sinking feeling knowing that the first aircraft incident was in fact intentional and there was a coordinated attack underway. Soon after came the plane attack on the Pentagon followed by the crash in Pennsylvania. My memory of the day is certainly like that of many others.
By 10:45 (CDT) that morning, I was put on active duty and arrived at my base shortly thereafter. I did not return to my job for over two years. One month after 9/11, I was overseas in what became one of many deployments in the War on Terrorism. My story is like that of many other friends who were in the National Guard or Reserves. That day became the first day of the War on Terrorism, a war we continue to fight.
Fast forward to today and as we remember the thousands of brave souls who perished on 9/11, we also remember the thousands of members of our armed forces who have lost their lives in the sixteen years of fighting that resulted in the terrorist attack on our country. There have been multiple terrorist attempts on the United States since that day, but none that match the scale of 9/11.
The war on terror has evolved. Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda has faded to the background. On 9/11, many Americans had not heard of Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. Until 2014, most Americans had not heard of ISIS, then all of a sudden, they appeared more ominous and threatening than even Al Qaeda. Now ISIS is on the run and Al Qaeda is making a comeback. The war continues, the groups change but the enemy has one thing in common: they want to destroy everything the United States stands for. The ideology of radical Islamic Terrorism continues to proliferate and we must dedicate the necessary resources to combat and destroy it. According to an article by David Inserra in The Daily Signal, since 9/11 there have been 97 terrorist plots against the United States, most of which were foiled, but some of which were successful like Orlando and San Bernardino. With the decline of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the number of terrorist plots within the United States has dropped dramatically in 2017, and as Inserra states, our success against the enemy in far away lands can substantially reduce the threat that we face within our borders. The anniversary of 9/11 is a sobering reminder of the challenge we continue to face but also the resolve that America will prevail.