I am still shocked at the images on the television. Terrorists hijacked four airplanes today, September 11, 2001, and crashed two of them into the World Trade Center buildings in Manhattan, and a third into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane went down in western Pennsylvania. Its target, or even if it was part of this coordinated attack, is unknown as I write this.
Certainly we are all saddened by the human toll these attacks have wrought. Public officials in New York City and in Washington wont even hazard a guess yet. However, at the minimum several hundred died on the planes themselves and scores, likely thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, died in the explosions, fires, and collapse of the WTC towers. The families and friends of these victims have our condolences.
Beyond the immediate loss of life, Americans will likely lose a lot more. Up until today, we have been lucky that foreign terrorism hasnt visited our shores. Now its here, and we are forever changed by it. In fact, I felt the change happen.
I was in a local high school, having just released a group of young air rifle shooters from an early morning practice. We all watched CNN in disbelief as smoke poured from the 1 and 2 WTC buildings, and in the five minutes it took me to drive home, the 1 tower had collapsed. The second tower followed shortly thereafter. The Pentagon burned well into the afternoon.
As I turned to leave the JROTC offices in the high school, I saw the shocked expressions on the teenagers faces. Suddenly, their worlds had changed. Their drilling and shooting activities, they immediately understood, have real-world applications and implications. I looked at one fellow, a 17-year-old, and remembered he was already old enough to enlist in the armed forces. Depending on how things sort out over the next few months, he could be fighting in Desert Storm II, or wherever this conflagration takes us.
Part of what we lost in just those few minutes was a naivete about where the United States stands in the world. There are very few countries outside our own that value freedom and individual rights. There are groups who want nothing more than for the yankees to be driven back to these shores, because they hate and fear our individual ability to live without oppressive religious, legal, or social strictures. We threaten them because of who we are, not necessarily what weve done.
I think they will find us to be a formidable foe, mainly because we have something great to fight for.