At the time, I lived in the SF Bay Area in the heart of Silicon Valley. As the events of the day unfolded, it was not too far-fetched to think that Silicon Valley could be a target for the terrorists too. This, of course, was not a very comforting thought.
The other day I heard a news commentator asking rhetorically whether we had won or lost the war on terror. As I think about how our nation has changed and our lives have been impacted since that day, I ponder the same question. I suppose that on the face of things, we have won, if one considers that there hasn't been another attack on US soil since. On the other hand, though, we have been at war in some form or fashion ever since, with countless American (and other) lives lost - far exceeding the losses of 9/11 itself. Our economy is in the toilet. We have willingly given up many of our civil liberties in the name of "fighting the enemy" and preserving our freedom. And our country, once unified by the tragedy of 9/11, now seems more divided than ever, caught up in the petty rivalries of our political system.
I spent the day yesterday on the back of a motorcycle, tooling through the wide open spaces of northern Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. It was a great experience. As we enjoyed the beauties of nature, ate lunch at a roadside diner, visited an old unkempt graveyard and visited our mountain cabin, I thought a lot about 9/11. I thought about how far removed I felt from anything at all to do with 9/11.
I'm not so foolish as to think that just because I now live in a sparsely populated part of the country that I am safe from the sting of terrorism. After all, terrorism wins by attacking when and where it is least expected, exposing our vulnerabilities. Terrorism wins by instilling fear in the hearts and minds of the masses, propelling reasonable people to do and say things that they would never do under ordinary circumstances, by paralyzing them. Terrorism wins by destroying trust and causing us to view the world through suspicious eyes.
I refuse to let terrorism win, whether I live in a huge metropolitan area like San Francisco or New York or in a more remote and rural area like the mountains of Utah. I choose to have faith in a loving God who knows more than I do. I choose to have faith in the goodness of mankind prevailing over the evil. I choose to remember that I live in a nation in which our freedoms are a great gift and should never be taken for granted. I choose to be alert and watchful, to take an active interest in my country and my community, and to do what I can to make it a better place to live, however small my part might be.
I'm grateful to the countless men and women who have given their lives because they also refused to let terrorism win. May we never forget what happened on 9/11, and yet, at the same time, may we always look forward with a perfect brightness of hope that peace and goodness will prevail.