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9-11-18


By Jeffry Boatright


After the initial shock, which was followed with anger and grief over the cowardly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, America knew that she would be in a long fight. We vowed to never forget, and many of us haven’t. It is hard to believe, however, that almost a generation has passed since that horrid day. Today, men and women who were not old enough at the time to recall the horrific events have embarked on careers to defend our nation. Some school teachers who have entered the field of education had not even begun kindergarten when the attacks occurred.


With each passing year, less emotion is shown toward the attacks that were perpetrated by Osama bin Laden and his band of Islamic terrorists. Some might argue that emotions fade after 17 years, but to those of us who remember, that argument has no validity. The images of buildings afire with mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers leaping to their deaths has been branded into our minds. We cannot forget, nor should we. We understand that war was brought to the American mainland that day and we all vowed to step up to the plate.


Never before had we seen our first responders heroically step into a situation of such magnitude. They became our first line of defense, and we supported them. Everyone did his or her part. We comforted family, we checked on neighbors and we supported America. We invested in American stocks, proudly flew our American Flags and returned to church, earnestly praying for God’s healing. We even befriended strangers.


Each year, we remember the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, along with the crews and passengers of the four hijacked airplanes. Sadly, we are also reminded each year that some of our greatest fears have come true. There has been no surrender, the enemy has many faces and the desire to defeat terrorism, along with the dedication to do so has waned, at least for some. No treaty has been signed, nor will it be. From each terrorist organization, a new fanatical group springs forth, with rogue regimes around the globe harboring them. Each new organization, resembling terrorist groups such as al-Quaeda, hates America. They loathe Israel and despise freedom. They are heartless, oppressive killers.


Perhaps the greatest fear that has become reality is the ever-present threat of domestic terrorism. While we like to think we’re safe, North Florida is not invulnerable. Threats persist in our places of worship, institutions of education and all other places where targets are perceived as soft or easy. With every act of domestic terrorism, the enemy is certain to celebrate. Although we cannot allow our own vigilance to transform us into fanatics, it is imperative that we remain vigilant.


Sure, we have made progress in the War on Terror. There have been many triumphant moments, such as the death of Osama Bin Laden and the relentless pounding of ISIS over the past two years. In many ways we are safer, but we will always remain vulnerable. We remain cautiously optimistic that something as atrocious as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will never happen again, but the fear remains.


Indeed, America was attacked 17 years ago and the War on Terror rages on. There is, however, a whole new generation with renewed optimism. Nine-year-old Rielynn Hudson symbolizes that optimism. She feels that grown-ups are keeping us safe, but readily admits that she feels sad when adults tell her about the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. The cheerful young lady is also certain that the bad people responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not go to heaven. Rielynn’s father, Josh Hudson, serves our nation in the armed forces, and she understands that he goes to work each day to protect us and the freedom that we enjoy.


Although Rielynn was not born when the terrorists struck, her grandmother, Lisa Hudson, vividly recalls the dreadful day. “I was scared,” Lisa recalled in a somber tone. “I just wanted to stay close to family, and we had no idea what was to come next. Our family just stayed glued to the television.”


Lisa’s sister, Theenie Smith, will never forget the horror of that September day either. “I was scared,” Smith readily acknowledged. “I then became sad and numb.” She knew that life would never be the same.


It was a flood of emotions for both Lisa Hudson and Theenie Smith. They have each visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, and experienced the sadness. “It was surreal,” Hudson stated. “It was truly sad to see the photos and to read the letters from victims’ children.”


Smith, who has visited the site twice, shares her sister’s sentiment. “I cried the whole time during my first visit,” Smith said. When Smith returned for a second visit, much of the work at the memorial had been completed and she was taken by the sight of a pair of red high heeled shoes. “There was blood stains on them,” Smith recalled.


According to Smith, the shoes had been worn by a lady from New Jersey, who was working in the World Trade Center, on Sept. 11, 2001. She was able to escape the burning building and fervently ran, seeking safety. It wasn’t until she was home that the lady in red high heeled shoes realized how badly her feet were blistered and that they were bleeding.


The story of the red shoes epitomizes America that day. We were scared and we were hurting, but we refused to give up. Yes, it has been 17 years, and we still cannot give up. We must honor the victims, remain true to American values and continue to embrace freedom and capitalism.


Perhaps the recounting of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 might not resonate as we think it should for those who don’t remember. Sadly, the Pearl Harbor attack didn’t resonate with many of us as it should have before the terrorist attacks either. Generations of us quickly learned just how important American values and resilience are. We also learned the significance of our nation’s history and sacrifices. Above all, we learned that we are indeed responsible for teaching Rielynn’s generation that freedom isn’t free. We must remind them, and ourselves, of the tragedies suffered on Sept. 11, 2001. Lest we forget, the sacrifices of our military personnel, first responders, and civilians, have afforded us the privilege of enjoying this wonderful nation called the United States of America.