Before we leave the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers the Pentagon and Flight 93 over Shanksville, Pa., allow me a couple of parting thoughts.
As with everybody who witnessed the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, I have vivid memories of that day. I was at St. Simons Island, having helped kick off the local United Way campaign over a few days. The volunteers had laughed in all the right places and were busy preparing to go do what Americans do best — donate their time and talent and tithes to help those less fortunate. It had been a good week.
I was watching television when the planes hit the towers. My first thought was that this was a promotion for a new movie or television show. But it wasn't. It was real. The United States had been attacked by terrorists.
The image that will stick with me forever was watching a young mother and toddler headed for the deserted beach a few hours later. The little boy was holding his mother's hand, secure as little children are that momma was by his side.
I would like to have shown the terrorists that little boy and asked them what this child had done that would precipitate such a heinous act? Were they afraid that he would grow up free? Free to state his opinions? Free to vote? Free to worship? Free to move from one place to the other? Free to protest those things with which he disagrees, knowing some religious zealot can't put him in jail?
I don't think I have ever hated people as much as I hated those who attacked us that day. Over the past decade, I have come to understand that not all Muslims are responsible for what a few savages did any more than my Baptist friends are to blame for the unconscionable actions of the nutcases at Westboro Church in Topeka, Kan., who call themselves Baptists.
I am more tolerant these days of Muslims - except the ones who think our laws don't apply to them - than I will ever be of smug television yakker Bill Maher, who sat safely on his tush in California and opined that it was his countrymen who were cowards for lobbying missiles at the enemy, not those brave guys who killed 3,000 innocent people.
And then there is Ted "Looney Tunes" Turner. In 2006, he told the National Press Club that he wasn't sure which side he was on in the War on Terror. "Our president" - meaning George Bush - "said it very clearly. He said ‘either you're with us, or you're against us.' And I had a problem with that because I really hadn't made my mind up yet," Turner said.
I hope he chose the other side. I didn't like Ted Turner before the terrorist attacks. I like him less today. I hope a buffalo poops on his head.
Ten years later, our naiveté hasn't caught up with reality. There are those among us who want to believe terrorists are like us and, when caught, should be treated as someone who shoplifted a Snickers bar from the local drug store. Remember, we didn't start this war, just as we didn't start World War II. Yet, revisionist historians have made the Japanese appear as the victims of that war, overlooking a small detail of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
I can't imagine how the politically-correct crowd will position 9/11 in the history books. Expect some hand-wringers to show up on a goat farm in the boonies of Afghanistan and apologize to al-Qaida for all that is wrong with us. I hope a goat poops on their heads, too.
Today, I am looking at the same beach. The sun is shining as it was on that fateful day 10 years ago. Only this time, St. Simons Island is crowded with people. I notice a mother with a child about the age of the one I saw on the day of the attacks. They are having a wonderful time.
As I hear their laughter, I realize that we survived this national body blow. The terrorists did not win that day, and they never will.
Leave it to late President Ronald Reagan to say it best: "No weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
God bless America.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. Contact him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139 or visit his website.