It is hard to believe that it has been 17 years.
This morning I woke up in Iraq. I had a few minutes standing on a flight line with a group of US Army and US Navy Special Operations warriors. Most were in their late 20’s. Only two were in the service when our Nation was attacked in 2001. All made the selfless decision to join our military knowing full well they were likely to go to war.
While we were standing on the ramp September 11th came up. I asked them where they were from, what their story was, and where they were that morning. Some were at work on their first assignments. Most were in school.
Then one of the Navy guys asked me where I was. I told them I was in DC. I don’t normally talk about 9/11 but I felt like there was some goodness in sharing with these guys.
I told them about the weather in Washington that morning – the clear beautiful blue perfect skies and the perfect temperature.
I told them about when, and how we found out the Nation was under attack – when our meeting was interrupted with the news. How we moved to the room with the TV, and on seeing the first tower burning from the helicopter news camera… the size of the hole in the building… and then watching the second airplane enter the picture and fly right into the second tower.
I told them about the silence that seemed to last forever after the second airplane impacted… when in reality it was a few seconds…
I told them about a switch being thrown in the squadron as we started to react.
I told them about the Crew Chiefs, the Weapons Loaders, and the Support Crews responding… all the while in the distance they could clearly see the acrid thick black smoke from the Pentagon.
I told them about Brig Gen Dave Wherley, our Commander, and his unbelievably perfect leadership that morning… “I trust you, you will do what is right, and no matter what… I have your back.”.
I told them about Ben Sliney and his first day at work at the FAA supervising the entire U.S. airspace system and his making the decision to shut down the US airspace – no doubt saving lives.
I told them about NYFD Chief Pfeifer, the Fire Fighting Commander at the World Trade Center who’s Brother was also a Firefighter… and the Chief sending his Brother and his team up into the Tower never to return.
I told them about the Passengers on Flight 93, Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and the rest of the passengers and the absolutely pure and perfect example of human sacrifice they made in the toughest of times… and for giving my Squadron the gift of not having to make the toughest decision of our lives.
I told them about the aerial refueling tanker crews that just magically showed up over DC and kept us airborne… and did in Afghanistan and Iraq, and still do today.
In the end, I guess I told them about the American spirit, our American will, and what it really means to be selfless. In the soulful sadness of that day, there are so many incredible lessons that we all should learn from.
17 years is an incredibly long time to be at war… and we are still going at it.
Literally, as I write, America and our Allies and partners are still fighting the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS.
Is it worth it? My answer… you bet your ass it is… so that our Children and our Children’s Children will hopefully never have to live through what our generation has.
May we never ever forget 9/11/2001 and the many examples of the American Spirit from that morning, and all the mornings thereafter in this longest of wars. I know I won’t.