This week America
will mark the two-year anniversary of the worst attack on American soil in
our history. We will likely see video footage and photographic images
of the horrible events that opened our eyes and forever changed our outlook
on terrorism and our role in the world community. But more than any
news report or photo or radio account, the most powerful memories will be
invoked by recalling our own personal experiences on that fateful day.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? It's a question people often
ask each other. I remember exactly where I was and what I saw.
What I often wonder is "why." Why did I see what no person should ever
have to see?
As a resident of Houston, Texas and doing the work that I do, I am not a
frequent traveler. I had visited our nation's capitol several times over
the years, the most recent trip prior to 9-11-01 being the presidential inauguration
in January. That trip was a thrill to say the least, and as my wife
and I returned home, I was already looking forward to future trips to Washington.
In September 2001, as my company began to grow and reach more people, I thought
the timing was right to return to Washington to promote the venture on Capitol
Hill. I was invited to attend a conference in DC which was scheduled
for September 9-11, and I knew that would be the perfect occasion to do some
corporate promoting in addition to attending the conference events.
September 11, 2001 was a bright and brilliant day in Washington, DC.
I had enjoyed two full days of policy briefings and discussions, and on that
Tuesday, I was looking forward to doing something a bit different.
After briefly attending the final day of the conference in the morning, my
plan was to spend the rest of the day seeing the marvelous sights that Washington,
DC has to offer and visiting Capitol Hill.
Driving in from Virginia with the top down on my friend's convertible, I
was enjoying the clear blue sky and crisp air. I also paid moderate
attention to the news radio station that my friend tuned in. I'm not
a regular listener of news radio, but that morning was different. We
had already seen reports on television of the first plane hitting the World
Trade Center. We thought it was a very odd event, so we dialed in the
news as we drove into town. At about 9:15 a.m., we heard reports of
the second attack.
There was no doubt in our minds that America was now the victim of terrorism.
What we did not realize was that the attacks were not over. We would
learn that soon enough.
With the Pentagon in sight, the roar of jet engines quickly filled the air.
I looked over my left shoulder and saw the aircraft only a couple hundred
feet over head. It was so loud and so low and so fast, and I knew in
an instant that something was terribly wrong. I wanted to scream, but
the only words that would come out were "Oh no." A few seconds later,
American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon and exploded in
a burst of flame right in front of my eyes.
Traffic on the freeway ground to a halt as people started to comprehend the
meaning of black smoke pouring from the Pentagon. Tears streamed down
the face of the woman in the car behind us. She looked ahead in utter shock
and seemed frozen in time. I could not help but wonder if another attack
was headed our way. Every loud noise caused me to jump, and I found
myself looking to the horizon to see if another plane was coming.
I was a zombie for the rest of the day--glued to the television, just waiting
for something new to be reported. I watched the scenes from New York
over and over again, but I could not get the vision out of my head of what
I had witnessed that morning. Why was I in Washington? Why did
I see Flight 77? I often ask myself these questions, and wonder if
there was a grand plan or simply blind luck. In any case, I along with
the rest of the country was changed forever.
America is a strong, vibrant nation, and what the world often fails to realize
and the al Qaeda terror network dramatically underestimated is the power
of the American spirit. Especially when faced with adversity, America
comes together unlike any nation on earth.
A fight was brought to our shores on September 11, 2001, and we have taken
that fight back to the terrorists. We will win this fight for one simple
reason--our cause is just. Rather than fighting for land or wealth
or power, America fights for something more precious: freedom.
Why did I see Flight 77? I don't know. But I do know that I am
committed to America as the shining beacon of democracy in the world.
The terrorists may very well strike again, but we are not going anywhere.
We will not run; we will not hide. We will fight for freedom, and freedom
Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA.com.