I won’t forget where I was on 9/11/01 when I saw the towers struck. I was in college, my freshman year. I saw the second tower hit on TV, went to class, and heard about the collapse as reports were being funneled in periodically to the professor. Was it homegrown American terrorists like McVeigh? Was it Al-Qaeda/bin Laden? I remember one of the first claims of responsibility came from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Having been a Republican my entire life up to that point, the trauma I felt by witnessing the destruction of the towers and the significant loss of innocent American lives was significant, and I thought the only appropriate response was to take a hard right turn into neo-conservative swampland to eliminate the terrorists, remake the Middle East (“nuke Tora Bora,” invade, etc), profile Muslims, and do whatever we needed to do to protect our freedom and way of life in the US to keep us safe from anyone that might be just the slightest bit different from us. Remember after 9/11 when Anthrax was being mailed to government officials? It must have been terrorists that we have to eliminate at all costs.
My dad and I went to Foxboro Stadium on 9/23/01, the first week of NFL games after the 9/16/01 games were cancelled. What an odd feeling being in a stadium (a potential target) with 60,000 people that soon after the attacks. It was surreal. I remember looking at everyone trying to figure out who “looked” like a terrorist, just in case.
“They hate us for our freedom.”
It took approximately 5 years from that day for me to see the error of those ways. It took a disastrous Iraq War that I felt I had to defend as a Republican and because I voted for GWB, the reality of the PATRIOT Act to hit, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, red, orange, and yellow alerts, the TSA, the LIES and FEAR-mongering, and more that resulted in such a loss of faith in the government (who must know more than us, right?) to awaken me from the slumber I was in that allowed negativity, suspicion, statism, and anger to dominate my view of both foreign and domestic policy in the United States.
It led further to a couple of years of apathy. The Democrats took Congress in 2006, the Iraq War that I felt deep inside was wrong from the beginning, but did whatever I could to defend it, could no longer be denied. The warrantless wiretaps could no longer be ignored. The irrationality of our Middle East interventionism could no longer be justified as some eternal crusade to make the world safe for democracy.
America wasn’t America anymore, certainly not the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
Ironically, it was due to the fear/hate/suspicion/statist based policies, actions, and feelings that many (including myself) justified as necessary to respond to the attacks, rather than the rationale that many of us believed was the reason behind the attacks to begin with (hating us for our freedom).
Ron Paul cured my apathy in 2007/2008. I saw the error of my ways. Ultimately, I shook off the constraints of the party loyalty that lit the way as I headed down that path I despise so much today, and over the next few years followed the logical conclusion to the philosophy of liberty. We are all individuals and we must judge on that basis alone. Liberty, sound economic policies, trade, non-interventionism, smaller, limited government, leading by example… this is how we make the world a better place – by making the United States a better and freer place where we respect and tolerate differences (even if we don’t personally agree with certain practices). We need to be the change we want to see in this world.
We will always remember and we will always mourn the far too early loss of innocent lives, taken without regard by evil, that occurred that day and the innocent lives lost by many others over the following 13 years during our pursuit of bin Laden, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere due to the War on Terror. We must also never forget the liberties that have been falsely sacrificed on the altar of false “security” so that we may continue to work to regain what has been lost.
We all have our own 9/11/01 stories. This was mine. The most important question we must ask ourselves is are we better, more learned, experienced, and open to respect and freedom today than we were 13 years ago? I am and I know many of you are as well.
I’ll never forget 9/11/01, the most significant and influential day for our entire generation, and I’ll never forget the journey I took over the last 13 years to get where I am today.