I was too young to understand fully what was happening but old enough to remember the televised images vividly. I don’t think my parents wanted me to see, but I distinctly recall tip-toeing down the stairs late at night and peering over the railing to look: the flames, the smoke, the imploding skyscraper, the terrified faces, the firefighters running into the flaming buildings instead of away like everyone else. Those things are emblazoned in my mind, and as I grew older and gained an understanding of the event, childlike observation has matured into deep-set determination to reclaim what was lost and avenge ..My family was at my grandparents’ vacation home in Canada, enjoying the woods, the lake, the off-roading, the fishing, the countless games of marbles, the mosquito bites… By the eleventh of September, we were preparing to head home, but we couldn’t, for obvious reasons—well, not so obvious to me, aged five, or to my little brother. We stayed in Canada to celebrate my brother’s second birthday on September 16th, and we were both thrilled to have more time with our grandparents.
All I understood was that someone had done something terrible to America, and the doors to the country were closed. I realized years later that my life, my brother’s life, and the lives of all Americans, were changed that day. At the time, in childlike innocence—or ignorance—I don’t remember being afraid or angry at the time because, except for those distant images on the screen, my own little world remained undisturbed.
I could use today, fifteen years later, as an opportunity to give a detailed analysis of the history and motives of Islamic Jihad under Sharia Law, scare your socks off with statistics about civilizational Jihad in America, lay out a practical policy approach to defeating terrorism at home and abroad, or relive that horrific day from a historical perspective. Instead, let’s consider why that day was so significant to the identity and character of this country. Flags fly at half-mast across the nation. Colorado Christian University students have filled the quad on campus with tiny American flags, in honor of the 2,977 Americans that perished on this day thirteen years ago.
Why do we honor this day? Why did we go to war in the Middle East to avenge the 9/11 attacks? Most of us acknowledge what we are fighting against, but what are we fighting for?
In December of 2001, Congress designated September 11 as “Patriots Day.” Think about what that means. Everyone likes to put on their red, white, and blue—their “patriotic” colors—on Independence Day, go to the parade, barbecue, and watch fireworks, but how many know what it means to be a patriot? Patriotism is not, “my country, right or wrong,” and certainly not, “my government, right or wrong.” Patriotism means holding fast to the principles upon which this country was founded, and fighting to keep them foremost in the governance of our nation. By that definition, true patriots seem hard to come by these days.
America was not founded on Christianity. Not all of our Founding Fathers were Christians, as some zealous Christian patriots might claim. But please do not contend that this nation was not founded on Christian principles. Many of our Founders were devout Christians; those who weren’t Christians themselves at least acknowledged the validity of religion and many sought vigorously to protect the right to the free exercise thereof. A declaration that humans are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; a small government intended to uphold rule of law without violating those inherent rights; economic policies that promote opportunity and encourage individual responsibility; separation of church and state—not to protect the government from religion but to protect religion from the government—and a citizenry equipped with virtue, information, and a voice to protect personal freedom: these are America’s core characteristics, and the common threads are personal morality and a belief in the inherent worth of every individual.
The cornerstone of America is an objective moral standard—a kind of moral standard that is found only in Christianity. Christianity is the only belief system that values people as people, and without that, what is liberty, justice, equality, or the pursuit of happiness? Those values are what made America mighty. Those values are why we fight. That is why we remember Patriots Day.