It’s been six years since America realized it was at war.
Since that morning — and like today, it was a Tuesday — when hijackers took control of four planes and crashed one each into the World Trade Center’s towers and another into the Pentagon.
That night, instead of putting together a sports section, I was tasked to head out to local bars and get reaction to the day’s events.
The toughest interview was with my friend Mike. Mike was the manager at the bar we frequented. His daughter Leslie was an EMT in Manhattan. He hadn’t heard from her. Eventually, she got a message to his other daughter, who called him and told him she was all right.
But she lost a lot of friends that day when the towers came down.
It’s been six years since we realized those who wish to tear us down because they abhor our value systems. Mind you, those whom we are fighting care nothing for the slaughter of innocents, the mindless, needless deaths of women and children so long as their cause can be advanced.
This is a war unlike any other our nation has been involved in. We haven’t been asked to sacrifice much. Gas prices have gone up, but we don’t pay nearly as much for a gallon as they do in Europe. You have to take your shoes off before you get on a plane.
Maybe our privacy is being whittled at, but it still is fairly intact.
What’s also different is there is no one to negotiate with, no government with which to discuss peace terms or surrender terms to discuss. Our enemies, who are Islamic fundamentalists, have perverted a religion for the most unholy of reasons.
Our Western civilization has allowed that to happen before — centuries ago. Now, an area of the world regarded as the birthplace of civilization, where science, medicine, literature and art flourished during the Dark Ages of Europe, is where blinding hatred and bloodlust foments.
Our enemies resent our liberties, and we have the freedom to question if the war is being conducted as well as it can be. Did we need to go into Iraq? Was Saddam Hussein really a threat? Did it detract from our efforts to wipe out Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden? Deposing Hussein did mean that if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction then he wasn’t going to get them and they weren’t going to fall into someone else’s hands.
Capturing or killing Osama bin Laden may not end this struggle. Not capturing or killing him certainly means it won’t end.
Did this war really start on 9/11? Or did it start as far back as the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 or maybe even the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972?
I think about the sacrifices that have already been made by some of the people I’ve met, like the young wife who had just started college whose husband was killed in his second tour of duty in Iraq, taking from her the only boy she ever loved, the former printer who gave up a good-paying job and was killed in Iraq or the former high school football coach who lost both his legs to an IED in Iraq and to the cousin of a friend, in Iraq for the second time and an Effingham County native, waiting to get back to his wife and his daughters.
And this war may not end anytime soon. Our question, as a nation, should be — what sacrifices are we willing to make to defend our way of life?