They were convinced that the conventional wisdom was wrong. They did not believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — ten years earlier — had ushered in an era of peace. They had “connected the dots,” as we now say, and saw lines linking the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the attack on U.S. military personnel serving at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 2006, the bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 2008, and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
They were not confident that the experts in university Middle East studies departments, Washington think tanks, the media, and the intelligence community understood what was happening or were thinking seriously about policy responses.
They were outraged, too, by the many apologists for terrorism. Sure, people have grievances. Civilized people do not express them by intentionally killing other people’s children.
A few days after 9/11, I met with Kemp, Kirkpatrick, and the philanthropists a second time. We agreed to create the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to study terrorism and the regimes, organizations, and ideologies that drive and justify it; to find better policies to defend America and its allies. Kemp was the founding chairman. Kirkpatrick was a founding member of the board of directors. Both have since passed, and may they rest in peace. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I remember them. And like millions of Americans and friends of America around the world, I mourn the victims of atrocities carried out to advance what the perpetrators call a jihad. I hope that we are coming to understand that this war did not begin in 2001 and will not end in 2011. As we should have learned by now, in every generation, freedom requires defenders.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.MATT MAYER
My six-months-pregnant wife and I were driving to work in Denver when the radio station first reported that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. “How do you hit a skyscraper?” I said. Shortly after getting to my office, my wife called to ask me if I had seen the second plane hitting the South Tower.
I ran to a television and watched in shock until both of our buildings closed due to the potential threat. With so many airplanes unaccounted for, the threat was everywhere and felt all too real.
Once we got home, we spent the rest of the day and night watching the coverage: gut-wrenching video from Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and Shanksville. I also vividly recall seeing video from the Middle East of people celebrating the attack. The emotions that streamed through me that day went from horror to sadness to anger to uncertainty.
Many questions would soon get answered.
As I went to bed, I knew America had been changed in a profound way — an America about to welcome our first child. What kind of country would it be for her? Certainly not the one I grew up in.— Matt Mayer is president of the Buckeye Institute.
JOHN J. MILLER
What I remember most about September 11 happened on September 12.
I was walking from my townhouse in Virginia to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, for my first day of work in a Washington, D.C., that would be forever different. In the grass beside Beulah Street lay a small American flag, a little bigger than an index card. My guess is that somebody had attached it to the antenna of a car — a tiny patriotic gesture amid a huge national outpouring.
But it had blown off. There it rested, at my feet.
So I picked up the flag. Later on, I pierced it with safety pins and attached it to the black bag that I used to carry everywhere.
The flag remains on the bag today, badly torn after a decade of rough handling but still showing the red, white, and blue.— John J. Miller is national correspondent for National Review and director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College.