By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved
Editor’s note: The Roundtable’s September 2013 meeting was held on the twelfth anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11/2001. Past president William Vodrey opened our meeting that night with the commemoration below.
On this day in 2001, the United States was attacked by religious fanatics who struck at some of the most visible symbols of American commerce, military strength and self-government. In doing so, the terrorists remorselessly killed thousands – men, women and children – whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As we mourn, we should recall that not only Americans were killed on September 11, 2001. The citizens of more than 30 other countries died on that terrible day, some of whom, in a grim and tragic irony, were Muslim, just as the terrorists professed to be. The dead of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the four hijacked jets, whatever their faith, creed or national origin, were slain by a handful of evil men whose hatred of this nation was as virulent as it was blind, and who somehow, perversely, believed that mass murder would open the gates of Heaven to them.
We must never forget what happened on September 11, just as we must never forget this nation’s abiding promise of freedom. Despite their boasts, the terrorists have not won. They cannot – and will not – win. The United States remains a beacon of hope to the world, and rightly so. We are a nation where natural ability, hard work and respect for the law may carry one to the very limits of the imagination, and where religious liberty is fiercely protected. Our country is not perfect, and never will be; but we each have the opportunity and the obligation, as our ancestors had before us, to improve that which we were given, and to leave it better still for those yet to come.
Now our country is fighting terrorism, at home and abroad. In doing so, we should remember Benjamin Franklin’s words: “They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Now more than ever, we must do all we can to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, that structure of ordered liberty that has seen us through so many crises: a civil war, a great depression, two world wars, a cold war. We have seen America’s promise extended even to those excluded at the founding of our country, and to those who have come here from far away. We have seen our starry flag planted on the Moon and carried beyond our Solar System and to the darkest depths of the sea. This nation will endure and prevail, if we each decide that it shall, and if we are true to the principles on which it was founded.
Buildings, planes and property may be destroyed – people may be slain – but the ideals which the terrorists attacked, the ideals which define us as a nation and which still make the American example so appealing around the world, can never be destroyed. Those ideals are strong, they are timeless, and they are indestructible.
Human beings are capable of unimaginable barbarism, or transcendent good. Human hands may build either concentration camps or cathedrals. We may create bombs or books. We may save lives, or take them. We may, in coming years, dig a shallow grave for humanity, or venture forth together, to the stars. We each face this choice, in ways both large and small, in our daily lives, as a nation, and as a world.
Hysteria, Democracy and Terrorism