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Woodall: Never Forget, But Also Move Forward

Rep. Rob Woodall, Republican congressman from Georgia's 7th District 

Rep. Rob Woodall, Republican congressman from Georgia's 7th District 

As difficult as it is for most Americans to believe, for almost every elementary school student Sept. 11, 2001, is as intangible an event as Pearl Harbor is to those of us born after that infamous day in 1941. Like many of you, I learned about Pearl Harbor in school. I have visited the USS Arizona memorial in Hawaii, but Dec. 7, 1941, affects me differently than it does my grandparents who lived the aftermath on Dec. 8, who listened to President Roosevelt speak over their radio, and whose friends and family left home to fight in a foreign land.

They will never forget how Pearl Harbor "feels," and I will never forget the feelings of Sept. 11, 2001 -- seeing those planes hit the World Trade Center, watching flames come from the side of the Pentagon, and hearing voicemail recordings of those brave passengers as they said good-bye to their loved ones before gallantly fighting their hijackers in the air over Pennsylvania. Merely writing these words raises my blood pressure, even as Sept. 11 is scarcely more than a history lesson to our youngest children. Like the victories that followed Pearl Harbor, however, and the changes that day set in motion, our nation will never be the same in a post-9/11 world.

Nearly 3,000 people from more than 90 countries died as a result of al-Qaeda's attacks. While these shocking events happened on our soil, they were perpetrated against the citizenry of the entire free world. We must take stock of this event and acknowledge that the entire world was changed for the better.

While we will never forget, we must bravely look forward. In the past decade, roughly 40 million children have been born in the United States. America's pastime has crowned nine different World Series champions. We have seen the stock market soar and fall and soar again. Nine Medals of Honor, the nation's highest military tribute for valor, have been awarded to servicemen who fought heroically in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once oppressed by a ruthless dictatorship, Iraq has held free and fair elections for the first time in its history. The mastermind of the Sept. 11 attack--a bloodthirsty leader who called for the destruction of our country and our way of life -- has been killed, and al-Qaeda has been irreparably weakened. We have seen that the bonds that unite us are stronger than those forces that divide us.

In these 10 years, we have transformed our sadness and disbelief into the knowledge that the United States and her people can weather any storm and overcome any obstacle. So if those elementary school children who have always lived in a post 9/11 world learn nothing more about the legacy of Sept. 11, let them learn that Americans have embraced each other and are moving forward together; let them learn that the sacrifices made by our heroes have secured the opportunities that children have today; let them learn that our future lies not in our divisions but in our unity, moving forward as one nation, dedicated to expanding liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

May God bless America, our men and women in uniform, their families, and the families of those taken from us ten years ago today.

Rob Woodall is a U.S. Representative from Lawrenceville.