In 1992, American political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama theorized that we had reached the end of human history. He believed that with the fall of the Soviet Union and communism, the world would simply become a series of civilized, liberal democracies. By extension, Fukuyama thought this would mean no more struggles between ideologies or ways of life, just boring technocratic management of democratic nations. As a result, no more conflict or events to record for history.
Many people subscribed to this theory as the United States proceeded through the 1990s. Then, in September of 2001, a day of fire changed everything for the United States, our citizenry, and the world.
On September 11th, 2001, I was getting a haircut when I heard that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. For the rest of the day, I watched in horror at the events that unfolded. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that shook our nation to its core. Like many of you, that day and the weeks that followed are permanently inscribed on my memory.
As I think back on that day, I am struck by many different emotions. Anger rises first. Seeing footage from that day reignites the same rage I felt 20 years ago. Rage towards those who attacked us and ended innocent lives. That rage is replaced by sorrow as I think of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed. My heart aches for them and their loved ones.
We know there is evil in the world that seeks to destroy us. There will always be dictators and madmen who try to tear down those who only wish to live quiet, peaceful lives.
Our attackers thought they could destroy us, but they were wrong. In the wake of the attacks, Americans responded with unity. Not fake, coerced unity, but brotherly love. People across our country poured into the churches to pray for the victims, their loved ones, our nation, and the president. Our nation’s bravest readied themselves to defend America. The indomitable nature of our American spirit gave us renewed strength.
What a remarkable response.
As I wrap up my thoughts, I want to leave you with an image that I have always found striking. The image is of a girl on her father’s shoulders in the days after 9/11. Her arms are outstretched, and she holds an American flag in her hand. Around her are many Americans who have come together to pray for our nation. That image is below. To me, this photo captures the essence of the American spirit.
As we reflect on this 20th anniversary, let us remember those who lost their lives; let us pray for their loved ones; and let us honor the heroic soldiers who served our country.