Nine years have now come and gone since the 9/11 attacks.
In 1996, I steamed past the Statue of Liberty into the Hudson River onboard the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy. The World Trade Center rose majestically from lower Manhattan. I recalled my enormous relief three years earlier when terrorists bombed the towers and they did not fall.
In "The Fountainhead," Ayn Rand wrote:
"I would give the greatest sunset in the word for one sight of New York's skyline. ... the will of man made visible ... I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."
On Sept. 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was destroyed because it symbolized the joy of human achievement that is America. The 9/11 terrorists did not attack America for its flaws -- they hated our virtues. They did not blame us for our failures; they envied our accomplishments. Make no mistake: the target of their passionate fury was and is our freedom.
In the days following 9/11, New York Police Sgt. Karl Hagstrom was assigned to perimeter security at Ground Zero. He discovered a large American flag in the rubble. Torn, dirty, but intact, our flag was still there.
Karl saw news reports that the USS John C. Stennis was deploying from San Diego to strike back at the terrorists in Afghanistan. He e-mailed the ship, offering to send the flag. The ship's navigator replied simply, "Send it!"
The flag was carried by an F/A-18 Hornet during the battle group's first bombing mission against Al Qaeda in Tora Bora. Then, on Dec. 17, 2001, the World Trade Center flag was raised as the carrier's battle colors. The 9/11 flag is a guarded treasure onboard the Stennis to this day.
Nine years later, many of our enemies have been killed, but many others remain at large. Osama Bin Laden is still holed up somewhere, plotting and praying to spill more American blood. At the expense of more than 4,000 American lives and more than $1 trillion, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in little more tangible than the claim, "Well, at least we haven't been attacked, again."
And for nine years, neither Republicans nor Democrats have mustered the political will to implement the most obvious recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Firefighters and police officers still have difficulty talking to each other on their radios. Our intelligence agencies often fail to communicate with each other. We still do not have a good handle on who is in our country. And our borders remain insecure.
I am frustrated that a $100 million mosque appears to be sailing through the permitting process near Ground Zero, while reconstruction of the World Trade Center drags on and on.
But where there is liberty, there is hope. A Freedom Tower will rise above the Hudson River, surrounded by a fitting memorial to the fallen. Politicians who have not seen the light are finally beginning to feel the heat from Americans who will not tolerate another attack on our homeland.
The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us what Americans do when we are knocked down: We pick ourselves up, recover our flag, rebuild, and bring the fight to our enemies.
Giorgino is a retired Navy Surface Warfare Commander who lives in Coronado. He can be contacted at email@example.com.