Sunday, September 10, 2006

Never Forget!

We are an Army at war, but not a Nation at war.

Why is the Eleventh of September not a federally recognized National Day of Mourning or Remembrance? Personally, I will give a test on land navigation to some cadets, attend a small campus ceremony, spend a little time on the range (best.stress.relief.ever.) and basically have a semi-normal day. I won’t light any candles, sing any songs, or cry in my coffee. I will, however, reflect upon the lives lost (I hesitate to use the word ‘sacrifices’ because many of those in the towers and the planes that hit them were quite simply murdered. Sacrifice (to me) implies a freedom to act and a decision to do so. Men like Rick Riscorla were truly heroes who sacrificed their lives, as were the men in long coats and funny hats who ran in to the burning buildings. Men and women on Flight 93 sacrificed their lives, knowing that their attack would most certainly cause a crash, and end their lives, but chose their sacrifice to deny the enemy the ability to continue their murders. Men and women who ran back and forth through walls and halls to pull others out of the Pentagon certainly made sacrifices, rather than just running from the building. There were many heroes that day, and many sacrifices made. I myself feel remorse that I don’t know many of their names or stories. I don’t know what they did that day (and unfortunately we may never know.) So I am going to make this promise: I will read all I can about their personal stories. I will get to know them, as much as possible, because to forget them, and their lives, is to ignore their absence from our world.

Never Forget! is the motto of the 42nd Infantry. The 42nd, or “Rainbow Division” is the New York State National Guard. The red background of the flag symbolizes the lives lost and blood shed by our fellow Americans … past, present and future,” Taluto told the Soldiers. On that September day the 42nd Division lost two of its citizen-Soldiers, one a New York City firefighter and the other a member of the World Trade Center security staff.

“The pentagon and towers represent three of the most recognized structures ever built on U.S. soil,” he continued. “The Twin Towers may be out of our sight, but they will never be out of our minds.” The stars symbolize the airplanes that were sacrificed on that September day. The single star outside the pentagon and towers represents the brave passengers who diverted the one plane in Shanksville, Pa., saving countless other lives.

The blue circle surrounding the pentagon and towers represents the unity of the American people after the terrorist attacks.

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Instead of succumbing to fear and helplessness, Americans united together to respond, to comfort those in grief, and to recover.

“Once America removes the memories, the risk of another 9-11 will surely occur,” Loiacono wrote. “‘Never Forget’ is a perfect message to send out around the world.”

I make this promise to those who enacted, those who supported, and even those who cheered these attacks on my countrymen: I will never forgive you for your cowardice, your praise of murderers, or the bastardization of your religion into a death cult. I will never, ever forgive, and I will most certainly never forget this:

Nov. 4, Tehran, Iran: Iranian radical students seized the U.S. embassy, taking 66 hostages. 14 were later released. The remaining 52 were freed after 444 days on the day of President Reagan's inauguration.

Lebanon: Thirty US and other Western hostages kidnapped in Lebanon by Hezbollah. Some were killed, some died in captivity, and some were eventually released. Terry Anderson was held for 2,454 days.

April 18, Beirut, Lebanon: U.S. embassy destroyed in suicide car-bomb attack; 63 dead, including 17 Americans. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
Oct. 23, Beirut, Lebanon: Shiite suicide bombers exploded truck near U.S. military barracks at Beirut airport, killing 241 marines. Minutes later a second bomb killed 58 French paratroopers in their barracks in West Beirut.
Dec. 12, Kuwait City, Kuwait: Shiite truck bombers attacked the U.S. embassy and other targets, killing 5 and injuring 80.

Sept. 20, east Beirut, Lebanon: truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. embassy annex, killing 24, including 2 U.S. military.
Dec. 3, Beirut, Lebanon: Kuwait Airways Flight 221, from Kuwait to Pakistan, hijacked and diverted to Tehran. 2 Americans killed.

April 12, Madrid, Spain: Bombing at restaurant frequented by U.S. soldiers, killed 18 Spaniards and injured 82.
June 14, Beirut, Lebanon: TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome hijacked to Beirut by Hezbollah terrorists and held for 17 days. A U.S. Navy diver executed.
Oct. 7, Mediterranean Sea: gunmen attack Italian cruise ship, Achille Lauro. One U.S. tourist killed. Hijacking linked to Libya.
Dec. 18, Rome, Italy, and Vienna, Austria: airports in Rome and Vienna were bombed, killing 20 people, 5 of whom were Americans. Bombing linked to Libya.

April 2, Athens, Greece: A bomb exploded aboard TWA flight 840 en route from Rome to Athens, killing 4 Americans and injuring 9.
April 5, West Berlin, Germany: Libyans bombed a disco frequented by U.S. servicemen, killing 2 and injuring hundreds.

Dec. 21, Lockerbie, Scotland: N.Y.-bound Pan-Am Boeing 747 exploded in flight from a terrorist bomb and crashed into Scottish village, killing all 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Passengers included 35 Syracuse University students and many U.S. military personnel. Libya formally admitted responsibility 15 years later (Aug. 2003) and offered $2.7 billion compensation to victims' families.

Feb. 26, New York City: bomb exploded in basement garage of World Trade Center, killing 6 and injuring at least 1,040 others. In 1995, militant Islamist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 9 others were convicted of conspiracy charges, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, believed to have been the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. Al-Qaeda involvement is suspected.

April 19, Oklahoma City: car bomb exploded outside federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 people were killed, including 19 children and 1 person who died in rescue effort. Over 220 buildings sustained damage. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols later convicted in the antigovernment plot to avenge the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Tex., exactly 2 years earlier.
Nov. 13, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: car bomb exploded at U.S. military headquarters, killing 5 U.S. military servicemen.

June 25, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: truck bomb exploded outside Khobar Towers military complex, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring hundreds of others. 13 Saudis and a Lebanese, all alleged members of Islamic militant group Hezbollah, were indicted on charges relating to the attack in June 2001.

Aug. 7, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: truck bombs exploded almost simultaneously near 2 U.S. embassies, killing 224 (213 in Kenya and 11 in Tanzania) and injuring about 4,500. 4 men connected with al-Qaeda 2 of whom had received training at al-Qaeda camps inside Afghanistan, were convicted of the killings in May 2001 and later sentenced to life in prison. A federal grand jury had indicted 22 men in connection with the attacks, including Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who remained at large.

Oct. 12, Aden, Yemen: U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole heavily damaged when a small boat loaded with explosives blew up alongside it. 17 sailors killed. Linked to Osama bin Laden, or members of al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Sept. 11, New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.: hijackers crashed 2 commercial jets into twin towers of World Trade Center; 2 more hijacked jets were crashed into the Pentagon and a field in rural Pa. Total dead and missing numbered 2,992: 2,749 in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon, 40 in Pa., and 19 hijackers. Islamic al-Qaeda terrorist group blamed.

June 14, Karachi, Pakistan: bomb exploded outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12. Linked to al-Qaeda.

May 12, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: suicide bombers killed 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners. Al-Qaeda suspected.

May 29–31, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists attack the offices of a Saudi oil company in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, take foreign oil workers hostage in a nearby residential compound, leaving 22 people dead including one American.
June 11–19, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists kidnap and execute Paul Johnson Jr., an American, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 2 other Americans and BBC cameraman killed by gun attacks.
Dec. 6, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: terrorists storm the U.S. consulate, killing 5 consulate employees. 4 terrorists were killed by Saudi security.

Nov. 9, Amman, Jordan: Suicide bombers hit 3 American hotels, Radisson, Grand Hyatt, and Days Inn, in Amman, Jordan, killing 57. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

And, I’ll most certainly never forget this, as I’ll have a daily reminder for the rest of my life:

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