It was morning in America.
The great nation awoke, ready to go about the business of being the world’s most dominant military and economic power.
In darkened homes across this vast country, lights went on. Harried mothers and daddies tried to hurry sleepy children out of their beds and off to school.
There was just time for a shower, a fresh set of clothes, a quick breakfast and a peck on the cheek before heading out the door for the day, one that promised to be not that much different from the one before it, or the one that would follow.
In living rooms, around breakfast tables, on trains, in buses, in cars, in coffee shops, in schools and business offices around this great country we first heard the news — a plane had just struck one of the iconic World Trade Center towers in New York’s lower Manhattan.
It was an accident, we reasoned, it had to be. It was a small plane, likely an inexperienced pilot and something simply went terribly wrong.
History buffs, or those old enough to remember, likely flashed to July 28, 1945, when a B-25 bomber, whose pilot was confused by foggy conditions, crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, striking the 79th floor.
Fourteen people died and 26 were injured on that tragic morning in America.
But on this day there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was, in aviation-speak, “severe clear.”
The hole in the side of the building was huge, and the thick black smoke pouring out seemed to belie initial reports of a small plane.
And then it happened again, and it was obvious this was no accident, not on this morning in America.
We were under attack and our countrymen were dying.
Who did this, we asked. Why? And how long until we can bomb the dirty so-and-sos off the face of the planet?
But this was unlike the start of any war we had ever encountered. There was no sovereign nation against whom to declare hostilities.
There was merely a name, bin Laden, and a hint of a movement, al-Qaida.
Then it happened again, this time at the Pentagon, the center of America’s global military might. More death, more destruction.
Then the first tower, the second one struck, collapsed. America watched in stunned disbelief.
Then we were told they had another plane, and it was heading for Washington. This was the stuff of nightmares.
But that plane crashed in a farmer’s field. A group of brave Americans stood up to the murderous thugs who wanted to strike deeper at the nation’s capital, and sacrificed their lives in the process.
Then the second tower fell. More good Americans were gone.
It was morning in America.
Today we mark 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001. We have buried our dead, cleared the debris. The Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 was brought down by its rebellious passengers is a shrine.
The Pentagon has been repaired. The site of the World Trade Center is being rebuilt.
We remain at war against our amorphous, relentless enemy, in foreign lands and on the streets of this country.
They have tried, but failed, to attack us again, in some cases thanks to the power of intelligence-gathering, and in others thanks to the grace of God.
They wanted to change America, to drive us into an isolationist shell, to fill us with dread, to rob us of our determination to make the world a better place, to fill us with doubt and fear.
Oh, we’re not quite as free as we once were. Flying commercially has become a major pain, we’re a lot more wary than we used to be and much more blood has been shed on both sides in this conflict, but, fundamentally, nothing has changed since that morning in America.
The United States of America is not going away. We don’t run from a fight, don’t step back from a challenge. Tell us we can’t do something and we won’t rest until we prove you wrong.
We will fight our enemies until they give in. And we will do it without sinking to their level.
We have learned a lot about defeating the forces of extremism. We will never understand their need to destroy those with whom they don’t agree.
Or perhaps we do, since violence against the innocent is the refuge of the weak and small-minded.
On this morning in America, we will pause and pay tribute to those who died and honor those who lived.
Many words will be read, sung and spoken on this morning in America. But above all the tributes, the remembrances, the prayers and the songs, two words will stand out, will ring from the concrete canyons of New York to the gleaming marble edifices of Washington, from the fertile fields of Pennsylvania to the wild mountains of Alaska.
These words will well up in our hearts and minds, and will spring from our throats like a solemn oath.
It is morning in America again.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.