It really did happen. Nineteen evil men, acting upon the orders of dozens of organizers, who in turn reflected the sentiments of millions of radical fundamentalist Muslims, set about seven years ago to take the lives of as many innocent Americans as possible and succeeded.
2,974 Americans dead. 24 still missing and presumed dead.
The nation survived in the following days by correctly recognizing that we were living in a state of war, even if it had not been declared upon us. The wave of radical Islamic violence directed at U.S. targets around the world leading up to the 9/11 attack was not a chance series of events. We were correct to identify the threat but the resolve to act has been weakened by a softer element in our society.
For all the comfort and trappings of our civilized society, we still exist - in global terms - in a state of nature because the terms of resolving conflict can only be set by mutual consent. When our enemy establishes violence as their medium of political communication and the currency of their power, it is not our choice to opt against meeting them with violence. To choose non-violence is to choose death.
We must remember that the choice was made for us on September 11th, 2001. I didn't know anyone who died in the attacks. Most of us didn't. But those people who died unprepared, in a state of fear and terror, were someone's friend or family. We can only imagine the sharpest sliver of pain that must have been felt when the bonds were broken in such a painful, sudden and senseless way.
Hold on to that moment, when the pain of those thousands becomes conceivable to those of us who didn't experience it personally. It is what gives this war against terror purpose and gives us the will to proceed when the cause is difficult and forces seeks to dissuade us from the path that is just.