A Hallmark Day on the Calendar of History
The best lines in President Obama’s speech last night were at the beginning:
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
Try to remember where you were on September 11, 2001. I was in Geneva during the attack, sitting across the table from Iraqis at an oral argument before the United Nations Compensation Commission. It was several days before I could get back home. My flight on September 13, 2001 was one of the first transatlantic flights allowed after the terrorist attacks. As soon as I landed, I could feel it. There was a palpable sense of patriotism and unity. I had never felt anything like it in my life. Americans were truly one. It’s been 9 years, 7 months, and 21 days since that day.
Today we are closing a chapter in history. There are moments in history that should never be forgotten. February 1, 1979. November 9, 1989. September 11, 2001. May 2, 2011. We know that Bin Laden’s demise will not end the war on terror. But now we know how the war on terror will end.
The Middle East is in upheaval, and Bin Laden has long since lost his appeal. Tyranny and terrorism needed each other. Tyranny fuels the anger that gives rise to terrorism, and terrorism becomes a justification for continued tyranny.
We do not know what the new chapter in the Middle East will bring. Perhaps it will be like the velvet revolution of 1989, the brief Prague spring of 1968, or the tumultuous French revolution of 1848. What we do know is that the Middle East revolution of 2011 will not mirror the Iranian revolution of 1979. Bin Laden’s dream of a militant Islamic revolution is over. Today is the closing of a chapter in the Middle East. It’s the closing of a chapter in American history as well.
May 2, 2011 is a hallmark day on the calendar of history.