It was a day just like today. I had just poured cup #2 of coffee and turned on Fox News in my living room. I had just started dating a gorgeous blond, who would later become my wife and help produce two future Navy SEALs. I was in the middle of the Navy’s Instructor Training Course before I went on to run the SEAL sniper program and wanted to tell her good morning before I left, so I picked up the cordless phone (remember those?) and gave her a ring.
As the phone rang, I saw smoke coming out of a tall building on TV. By the time she picked up, I could tell it was one of the Twin Towers and heard someone say a plane crashed into it. I remember thinking how crazy that was with all the electronics onboard and warning systems…you’d have to WANT to hit that building…
I asked her if she heard about the accidental plane crash. She hadn’t, so she turned on the news. It was then, on the phone with my future wife, dressed in my white Navy uniform, drinking cup #2 of coffee, in my kitchen, on my way off to class — on a day just like today — I looked up at the TV and we watched our nation come under attack.
That’s the day it all changed. The day we came together as a nation to fight for our freedom and say to the world — NEVER AGAIN!
On April 19, 1775, the Revolutionary War began as British troops marched into Lexington. It was on that day — a day just like today — our nation came under attack, and we told the world — NEVER AGAIN!
December 7, 1941. It was a day just like today. Japan used planes as weapons against our great nation. We came together as a nation to fight for our freedom, and we showed the world — NEVER AGAIN…
For the latter half of the previous century, The World Trade Center was a symbol of pride and prosperity. The twin towers were a quintessentially modern American heritage, standing for our success in the new world. They were not a military base. There was no known or even rumored secret base of any intelligence organization inside. The World Trade Center was purely a commercial address where thousands of people, just like you and me, poured themselves coffee and went to work — on a day just like today.
9/11 is too painful for many to recollect and for those of us who do, science has proven that the exact details we “remember” are most often incorrect. Our memories are very malleable, and this is especially true when the events are stressful or are repeatedly recalled (or viewed on TV). In fact, the stronger your memories are of any event, the more likely they are wrong. So maybe I hadn’t put on my uniform yet. Maybe she called me to tell me what she saw on the news. But, you know what? Those things don’t matter.
What does matter is that it was a day just like today: September 11th, 2016 — a day just like April 19th, 1775 — a day just like December 7th, 1941; A day I work up in America, the greatest nation on Earth and a day we came together as a nation and said to the world — NEVER AGAIN!
As time passes, we know our memories fail. That’s part of being human. But as a nation are we forgetting what we told the world? Do we forget that every time our nation has come under attack, we let our guard down? We forgot about the past. We thought, “If we’re going to be attacked, we’ll know…we’ll be ready. It won’t be a day like today. It will be different — somehow.” We’d look outside and see the sunrise, pour some coffee in our cups, turn on the news and get on with the day…a day just like any other day. Heck, we beat our enemies, RIGHT? So now it’s time to relax!
As you wake up this morning to start your day, pour yourself some coffee, turn on the news and ask yourself this: How is today different than April 19th, 1775, December 7th, 1941 or September 11th, 2001? Are we still a nation united, telling the world — never again?
9/11 happened. We failed to prevent it. There have been inquiries, prosecutions and heads may have rolled from one department to another. No one was directly blamed for the many failures of our intelligence systems, but we learned from our mistakes. We upgraded our military and defense infrastructure. We combined our intelligence systems, so they work together and we have been more proactive ever since. But have we let guard down again? We can point our fingers all we want but the only way to ensure it never happens again is to take responsibility — WE let it happen. I LET IT HAPPEN… again…
September 11th, 2012 — Exactly eleven years after we came together as a nation and promised — NEVER AGAIN — I lost two of my brothers in Benghazi, children lost their fathers, wives lost their husbands because WE, as a nation, failed them. I, as a teammate, failed them. The next time you hear the words, “Never Forget” remember this; it doesn’t mean to never forget the exact details of that day because those memories are already gone. It means never forget that we wish we had prepared better, we could have done better. As long as we are ready on those special days when we wake up and notice — today is a day, just like every other day our nation has been attacked.
9/11 was a day just like today. The next time our nation is attacked, we will not have any forewarning. The only way to prevent such an attack is to remember what we told the world on that day and more importantly, do what we must as a nation to fight for our freedom and to uphold our words — NEVER AGAIN.