As if it happened yesterday

The book, "The Century," by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster cites examples of moments in history in which Americans would always be able to say "where they were when they heard" that a certain historic event occurred. In terms of events that affected the lives of millions of Americans forever, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy stand out as two of the most significant events. Six years ago, Sept. 11, 2001, joined that horrible list.

While Sept. 11 occurred in this new century, it will forever be one of those moments for a new generation. None of us will ever forget where we were when we heard that the United States was under attack, that two of the tallest buildings in the nation were collapsing into the streets of Lower Manhattan, or that the airlines full of innocent civilians were crashing in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Or the fear of wondering when and where they would strike next.

The memories are still painful, especially as we commemorate the anniversary of these atrocities each year. The anniversary of Sept. 11 reminds us each year to remember those who lost their lives that day and that terrorists attacked unarmed civilians on our own soil six years ago.

We must remain vigilant because the threat is still out there. Just last week, a plot was uncovered in Germany. According to reports, the terrorists had amassed 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide and had moved on to the assembly stage of their explosive devices, with "sophisticated detonators" in their possession. The reports indicate that the United States Air Base at Ramstein was a possible target.

The statement of the German Federal Criminal Investigation Office about this plot should serve as a daily reminder of the existing threat - "The main motivation of the group is hatred against American citizens, and therefore they had as main targets the American military installations."

The terrorists hate the United States, the American people, and those who love freedom and democracy. This is nothing new. We saw attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombings of the USS Cole, the first attack on the World Trade Center, and the attacks in London, Glasgow, Bali, and Madrid. The attacks on Sept. 11 immediately woke a sleeping giant, and we must maintain our vigilance and focus on defending freedom. We must do this because we know that these terrorists will always hate us as long as we are free.

After the attack, we said that there were only two sides in this war - ours and that of the enemy - and that we would bring the terrorists and those that harbor them to their knees. We said that we would keep the victims and their families and friends in our prayers. As we commemorate the tragedy of Sept. 11, we renew that commitment and we mourn with those who suffered.

It is six years later. The tears, shock and anger seem much further away, but our focus must remain. In this century, we need to remember where we were the moment we heard about the attacks of Sept. 11, and vow that we will never forget the victims, nor will we permit our children and grandchildren to have to experience another terrible moment like that day.

Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992.