September 11, September 11, for me it’s all about friend and family. Above all the others, the friend is — was — Barbara Olson, who was murdered by al-Qaeda on the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon. A really great woman, the life force in flesh and blood, how I miss her.
The family was totally transformed by September 11. Not that the terror attack opened anybody’s eyes; those eyes were already wide open. We had had plenty of death threats, and had taken them seriously. But September 11 convinced our children, all three, that their generation would be judged on how it reacted, and they all resolved to go to war. They could not look in the mirror unless they saw a warrior. And so Simone, without ever asking what we thought, signed up for (civilian) service in Iraq for the Department of Defense, and Gabe informed us that he would try to become a Marine officer, and hoped we approved. A few years later, Daniel also became a Marine officer. And so, just like that, we had become a military family.
We had not really considered that possibility when they were born, or while they were growing up. We thought we were preparing them for very different challenges – call them intellectual or professional if you wish. When people ask us what we did to get such amazing children, we don’t have the sort of answer they’re looking for, because we did what parents are supposed to do. We gave them all our love and total support in their endeavors. We set standards. And there was no television during the week (but I personally took them out of school to see important movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings). And of course we talked to them like serious people all along, respected their opinions, and provided religious education.
They have performed exceptionally well on the battlefield, which I believe tells us less about our parenting skills than it does about America and Americans. America is the one truly revolutionary country on earth, because Americans are willing to fight for our freedoms. Like al-Qaeda, our enemies do not get this, because they cannot imagine the incredible power of free people uniting to defend themselves. Osama bin Laden believed that 9/11 would bring us down, but instead it took us to a war that defeated him and his Syrian and Iranian allies in Iraq, and has reversed the gains of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It’s not smart to challenge Americans. We love that. Yeah, we’re very slow to get on with it, and yeah, we get tired and forget our mission every so often, and yeah, we make mistakes choosing our leaders. But when we do get on with it, it’s awesome.
Just ask our kids.