On 9/11, Still the Shining Beacon on the Hill

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The following was written by Vista City Councilmember Amanda Young Rigby a year ago. This year she shares it with SD Rostra.

Guest Commentary
by Amanda Young Rigby

Yesterday, I joined first responders from around our county as well as from across the western region and even some international crews, to remember the first responders – firefighters and police officers – who were murdered in New York on September 11th, 2001, when our nation was attacked by Islamist terrorists. Yesterday’s Memorial Stair Climb was – even after 16 years – gut wrenching while at the same time heart warming.

On that beautiful Tuesday morning 16 years ago we were a nation at peace. The people on those planes and in the towers –  the moms and dads, the grandmas and grandpas, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunt, uncles, husbands, wives, best friends – all of those innocent and unsuspecting people were just going about their day.  Like every other American that sunny Tuesday morning, they, too were living and working their American dream.

And on that day, THAT is what was attacked. Not New York, or the Pentagon, per se, but our American ideals, our American principles, our American way of life, our very identity as Americans.  As President George W. Bush said at the time, “Our enemies have made the mistake America’s enemies always make. They saw liberty and thought they saw weakness.”   Those terrorists thought that murdering innocent Americans would somehow extinguish the American spirit that burns feverishly inside every one of us and that we would simply crumble under the weight of their hatred.  But they learned just how wrong they were when the crew and passengers of Flight 93 took it upon themselves to become the first fighting force of this new war.  It was in that moment the terrorists learned that the American Spirit is a fire that burns deep within us and when the flames are fanned becomes one of the strongest forces on earth.  For it is our American Spirit that enables us to rise from our own grief and come together united as one people, with a resolve like no other.

The attack on 9/11 did not destroy America. On the contrary, it reinforced our foundation, steeled our resolve, and strengthened our commitment to who we are as Americans.  And now, 16 years later, America is still that shining beacon on the hill, burning a little brighter.  America is still the land of opportunity for millions of people who continue to come to our shores, not for a day at the beach, but for our freedoms and our ideals, to stand in the light of our American Spirit, and maybe, just maybe, for a light of their own to burn just as brightly within them.  I believe that is why when we were attacked, the world stood with us and yesterday as we remembered those who died on 9/11, representatives from 6 different countries including Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia stood with us once again.

In the aftermath of 9/11, it was with a renewed American Spirit, forged from the fires of the hell that was that day, that we rebuilt, and the new tower, the Freedom Tower, stands even taller than the original Twin Towers, at 1,776 feet. That’s right, 1776.

After 9/11, we also recommitted as a world leader in this new global war, a war where the innocents are the targets, and our workplaces, restaurants, schools, houses of worship, transit centers, and shopping malls are the new battlegrounds. This is how the enemy thinks they will defeat us, by a thousand cuts.  But we will not let that happen.  We must not, as Margaret Thatcher so famously said, “go wobbly” but instead we must stand firm.

We do not stand alone in this fight.  We have allies across the globe and one of our strongest allies, especially in the middle east, is Israel.  Just as we commit ourselves to stand against evil and tyranny, we must also commit ourselves to stand firm with Israel.   For Israel is another shining light, striving to serve God and live their lives committed not only to their people but also helping humanity on a global scale as well.

This is why today’s event is so important.  Speaking aloud our commitment to and support of Israel is paramount to ensuring that it never wanes, that we continually recommit to coming together with Israel, and our other allies, as one people of the earth, and reaffirm our faith in God and our desire for global peace and prosperity.

On this day as we remember and honor the victims of the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and those lost in the war since that day,  I am reminded of the words our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, spoke at Gettysburg, as they seem as apropos today as when he spoke them.

He said, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall nor perish from the earth.”

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