Eleven Years, 8 months, and 15 days ago, my family was huddled around the television getting to welcome in the New Year, the New Decade, the New Century, the New Millennium. Almost everyone was with family or friends celebrating. What was there to worry about? The US had been the sole superpower for nearly a decade, the threat of nuclear war, which define the past half century, was all but gone, and the economy appeared to be on the rise. I remember distinctly that as we welcomed in the New Year, my father told me that I was the only one of my siblings who would be old enough to remember this event, and that I would never forget it.
I was seven at the time, and while I do remember that day of celebration, of optimism, of joy, the day that shaped me, and most of our generation, came 1 year, 8 months, and eleven days later.
I was 9 years old when the same man who told me with a smile on his face that January 1, 2000 would be a day that would stick out in my mind forever, packed his family in front of the television, watching in horror as planes flew into the sides of the Twin Towers. I barely remember where I was on the first day of this millennium, but I remember exactly where I was when I heard that we had been attacked. I remember exactly where I was when I saw the planes hit those building. I remember where I was when I saw all those people jumping from skyscrapers to avoid the flames. And I remember the exact place I was, the exact feeling in my stomach, and the exact horror on everyone’s face each time we saw those towers collapse.
September 11, 2001 is a day that defines our generation. We lost nearly 3000 innocent men and women that day, and we have lost thousands more trying to ensure that no future generation has to see its country so vulnerable, so terrified ever again. No one could ever make these sacrifices and this pain less acute, less gut-wrenching, or less scarring for an entire nation, especial our generation, which was just old enough to know how atrocious and horrifying that attack was as it was happening. That said, we have lost our way while trying to deal with the threats of this new age.
We, as a society, have made the mistake of looking to the federal government for absolute security in our lives. We have allowed the passage of the easily abused and intrusive PATRIOT Act and allow the Transportation Security Administration to ostentatiously flout the Fourth Amendment of our constitution. It is fundamentally wrong for us to allow this intrusion into any citizen’s life because the preservation of Civil Liberties is the primary role of government. After that comes security, because security means nothing if we sacrifice the freedom that makes our nation so great.
Anyone who saw me on September 11, 2011 will tell you how somber I was that entire day. These are not the rantings of someone who was not deeply and fundamentally affected by watching the towers fall. I simply want to impart on you how we must change course! If we continue down this path, we make it easy for officials in the government to try to solve the nation’s problems through force and coercion, a tactic that will lead to the further loss of liberty and further use of coercion.