By: Brad Israel
Sixteen years ago today, I was sitting in a sophomore Psychology class. I remember our professor being summoned to the door by another teacher followed by canceling class immediately and telling us to go find a television. On the way out, she said if we had loved ones in New York City to please try and get a hold of them, some in my class did. That day changed the course of my life. Here I was, a fortunate, carefree, college kid that really had not stepped out of my true comfort zone, and here was our Freedom, being attacked by savages, hitting us at our core. Later that dreadful afternoon, my soon to become mentor, General Sam Wilson, called all students available to come to the Hampden-Sydney College auditorium to receive an update on the facts as he knew them. When “Gen Sam” called a meeting like this, you went! Being the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Deputy to the Director for the Central Intelligence Agency (under Director George H.W. Bush), it was a safe bet this noble warrior was informed. He explained the state of the Nation, who Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were, and what action needed to be taken with decisiveness if we were to respond and let the world know we were stronger than ever. Listening to Gen Sam and still sitting in disbelief, a fire lit inside of me. If so many others had made the commitment and sacrifice to serve, why the heck couldn’t I? I remember watching President Bush three days after 9/11, here he was, being elected as the education reform President, now being forced in to a war time Commander in Chief role. He did not ask for this, it was decided for him. I will never forget when he spoke to the firemen and emergency rescue workers at ground zero and with a bullhorn offered them words of encouragement. One fireman in the back said, “we cannot hear you”, President Bush responded with, “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” This erupted into a patriotic chant of USA, USA, USA! In my lifetime, I had never seen our country more united. I have no doubt we were angry and wanted to seek out those responsible, but we were also vulnerable and because of that we wanted to lean on and love one another. There are so many remarkable stories associated with 9/11 from the heroes that responded, to the passengers on Flight 93, to the Warriors that took the fight to the enemy, to communities across our Nation coming together to support one another. I still learn of new inspirational and humbling stories to this day, on where people were, what they did, and how it changed their life. So today, I ask that you take a moment to reflect, pray for all the families that lost loved ones, as well as for all our Warriors that sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom & the families that quietly grieve their loss. Remember how fortunate you are, smile, be happy, and remain grateful that we get to live in this Nation. I encourage you to share your story on where you were on 9/11 and do something kind for someone else. Never forget, right now, there are still men and women in uniform, standing guard, on our behalf as we go about our busy lives. God Bless them, protect them, and God Bless America. Go make this an exceptional day!