Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

A Sept. 11 Remembrance

September 9, 2011
Op-Ed


Olson: A Sept. 11 remembrance
By Rep. Pete Olson

Virtually every American remembers precisely what they were doing on the morning of September 11th, 2001 when the news broke that the first World Trade Center tower had been hit. It was a moment that changed our nation forever.

On that day, I was in Washington working for Senator Phil Gramm. Through the next hours and days, three things went through my mind. First, after the second World Trade Center tower and the Pentagon were hit, it was clear that our nation was at war. Second, as I tucked in my son, then a toddler, that evening with military airplanes soaring over our heads, the reality sank in that my children's lives and the life of every American had changed forever.

And third, as the Red Cross was looking for blood donations during the aftermath, to help the Pentagon victims, I witnessed the magnitude of the American spirit. I went to the local hospital to give blood and the line was seven layers deep around the building with people waiting to do their part. Some had radios and shared news with those around them. Everyone was anxious to help. It was easily a 6 -7 hour wait to give blood - but no one complained. Americans from all walks of life were united in their desire to help.

Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor could Americans appreciate the concept of war being brought to our shores. A sunny September day changed all of that. New York City, the Pentagon and a rural field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania became war zones filled with almost 3,000 American casualties. Heroic first responders demonstrated the best of the American spirit as they ran into burning buildings that others were desperately trying to flee.

The tenth anniversary provides another opportunity to express our solemn gratitude to the 9/11 Generation. These are the more than five million Americans who have put on a military uniform over the past decade, including more than two million who have deployed to foreign war zones in defense of our liberty. Sadly, more than 6,200 of those American heroes have given their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe them and the families they left behind a tremendous debt that can never be repaid. They forever have the thanks of a grateful nation.

It is also a moment to acknowledge the hard work of our intelligence agencies, as well as federal, state and local enforcement who are on the front lines daily working to ensure another attack does not happen. We have heard the familiar phrase, "the intelligence agencies have to be right 100% of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once." It’s not a slogan – it’s the truth.

Everyday citizens have also joined in this fight. We are often told if you see something, say something. This has proven to be an effective tool in warning of potential attacks. Observant individuals thwarted an attempted car bombing in Times Square, an attempt to detonate a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound airliner and alerted authorities of a possible second attack on Army personnel at Fort Hood, Texas. And these are just some of the stories that make headlines. Thanks to the dedicated work of our intelligence and law enforcement communities, countless other attempts were averted that we may never know about.

As we reflect on where we are as a nation, we also know that when attacked, America fights back. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. And it took several years of exceptional intelligence and military operations, but we did bring justice to Osama Bin Laden, the man responsible for those attacks and al-Qaeda is largely dismantled. Our nation is quite different today than we were 10 years ago. But the strength and resiliency of Americans has seen us through those dark days and I have every confidence that spirit will continue to ensure a brighter tomorrow.