September 11, 2011

Ten Years.  


We will likely always remember where we were (my freshman dorm room), what we were doing (sleeping in before my first 10:50am Tuesday class), and how we reacted to the news (my roommate came back from breakfast, turned on the tv, and we stared at it in silence with our hands on our faces in shock).  Though I don't know anyone who died that day personally, the sights and sounds of that morning will never leave my memory.

I shy away from politics, for the most part on this blog, though most people who read it, I suspect, know my leanings.  September 11 is not the time to discuss politics.  Today is a day of remembrance for the lives who were lost.  Yes, even those lives who masterminded the whole thing.

I will say this.  As I watched the George W. Bush 9/11 Interview on the National Geographic Channel, I remember how so very grateful I was on that day and I remain to this day that we had a leader like him at the helm of our nation.  Not even a year into his presidency, George W. Bush encountered a crisis the likes of which most United States presidents pray they never have to face.  He did it with grace, with gumption, and with determination.  And I remember thanking God for his leadership.

If you were unable to watch the interview, it's showing again today at 3pm (EST), and if you can't watch it then, allow me to offer you some excerpts courtesy of a man who showed unwavering resolve when I have no doubts many of the rest of us would have crumbled:

After receiving the news that the second tower had been hit while he sat in a classroom of children in Florida -
I had been in enough crises as governor to know that first thing a leader needs to do in a state of emergency is protect calm.  I hastily scribbled a statement and walked into a classroom of parents where they were expecting to hear "Man, what a great reading program you have" and instead they were going to hear the president say, "America's been attacked."
I remember thinking that the first plane was likely an accident, the second one was an attack, and the third plane was a declaration of war.
After being whisked away from the elementary school and prepared to board Air Force One at the Sarasota airport -
The stewardess was at the top of the stairs sad, concerned, and frightened, and I remember giving her a big hug and saying, 'Everything's gonna be alright.'
This, to me, shows where his heart is.  Here this woman stood, likely terrified to be flying with the president, and he took the time to stop.  And comfort her in the midst of unthinkable tragedy when he was no doubt preoccupied.
There was a lot of sadness on Air Force One.  We saw the images of people dying and I just knew the heartbreak was ravaging families.  The most powerless I ever felt was when I saw people jumping to their death on TV and there was nothing I could do about it.
It became apparent we were facing a new kind of enemy.  This is what war was like i the 21st century.
You really don't know what it's like to be a war-time president until the moment occurs.  I never campaigned on "Please elect me, I'll be the kind of war time chief you'll be proud of."  The war came upon us unexpectedly, and at that point in time we just deal with the issues.  There's a certain gravity, of course, that comes when you start making decisions that involve life.  It's one of these moments when you can't weigh the consequences or think about the politics - you decide.  And I made the decisions as best I could in the fog of war.  And I was determined.  Determined to protect the country, and I was determined to find out who did it and go get 'em. 
From speech at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, LA -
Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward.  And freedom will be defended.
The resolve of our great nation is being tested.  Make no mistake.  We will show the world that we will pass this test. 
From Offutt AFB in Nebraska where he learned at a National Security Briefing that it was likely the work of Al Qaeda -
I made the decision I'm going back to Washington against the objections of just about everyone else.  I'd had it.  I said I need to get home.  A lot had developed.  It was important to wrap the day up with a presidential speech assuring people that the government was functioning and responding and that we would take the appropriate action as necessary to protect our country.  And I damn sure wasn't going to give it from a bunker in Nebraska.  I wanted to give it from the Oval Office.  I didn't want the enemy to have the psychological victory of a president speaking from a bunker in the heartland of our country and not speaking from the capital that had been attacked.  So I told the secret service, I'm coming home. 
I felt I needed to strike the right balance between comforting and grieving and going on the offense. 
The Oval Office speech was as close to a declaration of war as we could get without declaring one.
One of the things that changed on September 11 is the notion that we were protected by oceans.  In the past, conflict would happen in remote lands.  We were protected at home.  The shock was profound. 
On September 14, George W. Bush flew to Ground Zero -
From the air it looked like a giant scar, but when we actually got to the site...it was like walking into hell. 
There were firefighters, police men and women, rescue workers lining the way in.  I decided I was going to shake every hand.  I looked in everybody's eye, I could see bloodshot eyes from people working overtime.  As I worked my way down, people started saying, "You get 'em", it was kind of a palpable blood lust.  These workers were interested in finding out whether or not we were going to go find that enemy and bring 'em justice.  That's what they wanted to know. 
As I got on top of a pile of rubble that ended up being a destroyed firetruck, somebody handed me a megaphone.  I didn't have any prepared remarks, but I knew I could cobble something together in front of the crowd that would comfort and reassure them.  "I want you all to know, that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives who were lost here, for the workers who work here, and for the families who mourn." 

(We can't hear you!)

"I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
The terrorists never won.  They may have thought they won.  They inflicted terrible damage on people's lives and our economy, but they were never going to defeat America.  They just didn't understand us.  They didn't know that we were a nation of compassionate, kind people who are courageous and who would not yield to their barbaric tactics.
May 1, 2011 -
President Obama called me and told me that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  And my response was I congratulated him and the special operators that conducted a very dangerous mission.  I was grateful.  I didn't feel any great sense of happiness or jubilation.  I felt a sense of closure and a sense of gratitude that justice had been done. 
Eventually September 11th will be a date on the calendar like Pearl Harbor day.  For those of us who lived through it, it'll be a day we'll never forget. 
Yesterday, George and Laura Bush, VP Joe Biden, Representative John Boehner, and former president Bill Clinton went to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to honor those who died heroically on United Flight 93. 

In the remarks George W. Bush gave, he quoted one of the most well-known speeches in our American history - the Gettysburg Address.  It was chilling to note the parallels, however un-similar the events that prompted the address -
We can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~Abraham Lincoln, from the fields of Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1863
Today, I'm going to remember how deeply loved by God each of us are.  You, me, the misguided souls who devoted their lives to destroying the lives others, the men and women who were simply going into work for another day of their lives to never come again, the countless rescue workers who either lost their lives or devoted their lives to helping in the aftermath, and to the men and women who guard our freedom in this country day in and day out.  If there's something more uniting than the horrible aftermath of a tragedy, let it be this.  We are God's children.  Every single one of us. 


Debbie said...

Beautiful quotes and selections, Jennie. I agree with your assessment completely. He was faced with an unbelievable challenge so early in his leadership. I watched the interview and also clips of that time ten years ago. One thing that jumped out at me was how young he looked in those clips.

Sharon said...

I really enjoyed this, Jennie. Yes, I remember that day distinctly. Don't we all? And I particularly enjoyed the breakdown you gave. For all the things that people have criticized George Bush for doing wrong - on 9/11 I really think he got it right. He focused us on God - and on the sure knowledge that evil will not defeat good, and justice will be pursued.

I think that message is so very true now - even ten years later.

And of course, you have captured the most important lesson of all. We are ALL deeply loved by God, our Father, who cares for His children, all over the world.


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