Much Like Pearl Harbor, The day President Kennedy was assassinated, or any other day we have heard shocking news; Americans who were alive will never forget the day the twin towers were attacked by Al Qaeda. I was in 6th grade in Mrs. Fogler’s homeroom class. The principal came over the intercom and made an announcement that a grave situation had occurred in our country and did not give much more news. By day’s end very few students remained in my classroom. On the bus-ride home a girl I knew looked at me and said she knew what happened and it was really bad. I asked her if the president was dead and she said no. I got off of the bus and walked into my house to find my father with tears in his eyes.
He looked at me and said, “those bastards attacked us.” He pointed toward the television and I didn’t really understand what I was watching. The replays of plane 1 and plane 2 slamming into the towers seemed unreal to me. The attack hit home where I grew up because there were families in my county who had family members who died in the towers. My family and I drove to Sandy Hook a few days later and I will never forget being able to see the smoke in the sky drifting up from the blank space in the Manhattan skyline. Even today, 18 years after the event, tears come to my eyes thinking about the horror that followed that day.
I wonder if anyone could foresee what has happened since 9/11. We have been engaged in the longest conflict in the history of our nation since that day. I saw a stat (which I’m somewhat skeptical of) that this is the first year it is possible for children born of men and women in uniform after 9/11/01 to serve in that very same conflict. It is almost as though the perpetual war from 1984 by George Orewell, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It makes me wonder if any of this will end. It makes us all wonder what kind of world our children will grow up in.
I worry about this now after the birth of my first child. He will of no doubt grow to look at the awards on my wall, The K-bars on plaques, the officer’s sword my father bought me when I commissioned. He will see the proud history of men in our family who signed up to serve during a time of war. Whether he decides to carry on that legacy is his decision alone. As a father, I pray he is not faced with such a choice. The horrors of the world since 9/11 force me to be weary of the world my son will grow up in.
The same memories that bring tears to my eyes when I think of the horror of this day, are accompanied by memories that send chills down my spine. After 9/11 I watched my entire town meet in the park at our town center. We held a candlelight vigil, and said the pledge of allegiance. People were crying and hugging each other. People wrapped yellow ribbons around their trees and we hoisted flags up in front of our homes. I watched a man named Pat tillman turn down a million dollar salary to bring our fight to the enemy’s door step. I signed up because of 9/11.
In the years since 9/11 everyone seems to have developed a crystal ball and become the John Madden of armchair quarterbacking international policy. To this day people seem to think that because I served in the military I must have a political point of view about what has happened in the middle east. Of course I do, but as a member of the military that didn’t matter to me. I understand where people are coming from when they point out that we seemed to go after Iraq for no reason in the years that followed 9/11. I understand why people are tired of the fact that we have been in conflict for so many years. I also understand that our nation needs men and women to be willing to project our power on an international scale in order to take a proactive approach to terrorism. You can’t argue with the fact that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been deposed from power. Granted, the power vacuum this created allowed for ISIS to develop and begin wreaking havoc on the middle east. Yet American force projection has toppled their stronghold as well.
My fears about the world my son will grow up in are silenced by my hope for the nation he will grow up in. This is a nation that banded together in response to an attack. We have since removed two terrorist organizations and a dictator from power in the middle east. We work to continue to depose a horrible dictator in Syria as well. I have served with great men and women from all over this nation. I have seen the best we have to offer. My experiences with those beautiful bastards who wore the EGA on their uniform and had it burned into their soul, make me proud of the country my son gets to be a citizen of. It is hard for so many of us to pull the positive out of a day like today and the conflict that has raged on ever since. It was a horrible day, but our response demonstrated the capabilities of a beautiful nation. A nation I am absolutely proud of and will continue to stand behind. God willing, we will leave it a nation our children will want to stand behind as well. Whether or not we do, is up to us as a people in how we view the actions of our past and the decisions we make for our future.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.