By Representative Paul Ryan
Ten years ago Sunday, thousands of American lives were lost in a brutal terrorist attack. The scenes of that day--the senseless acts of violence, the selfless acts of bravery in response--remain seared into our memories and will never fade from history. Today, as we did then, a reflective nation offers its thoughts and prayers to the families of those who were taken from us on that fateful day. Our nation responded, justly, to hunt down and punish those responsible for the attack and against forces that would visit similar horrors on our shores if given the means, opportunity and time.
This anniversary will also be a day to remember the families of our men and women in uniform, especially families of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, families who share the pain of those directly impacted by the 9/11 attacks. We cannot fathom the grief that binds these families, but on Sunday we can and must pause to reflect on that bond and what it reveals about our exceptional nation.
Thanks to our commitment to freedom and opportunity, coupled with unparalleled global leadership over the past century, America has helped lift an untold number of human lives from the depths of poverty, oppression and tyranny. In the words of the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, America remains the "last, best hope of Earth"--and each successive generation must ensure that America's light shines brighter.
On Sept. 11, 2001, radical jihadists put this proposition to the test and declared war on the American Idea. The willingness of hundreds of thousands of Americans to put their lives on the line on behalf of that idea, to fight bravely half a world away to ensure its preservation, and to sacrifice in the service of extending its light far beyond our shores, has given us solemn reassurance that the murderous terrorists' acts that day were futile and that they themselves died in vain.
The bond that ties the New York firefighter who rushed into a collapsing tower to save a countryman he has never met to the Navy Seal sacrificing himself to save his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan is a bond we must regard with awe and reverence. It is the bond of free men and women, acting in the absence of compulsion to repel the advances of those who view our freedom with fear and contempt.
This solemn anniversary binds together our nation. United in reflection, Americans mourn the tragic loss of life and honor the heroes who have offered their lives in defense of their fellow countrymen. We must remain steadfast in the face of enemy threats, with vigilance and resolve to keep secure all we hold dear.
Sept. 11 gives us all a reason to offer gratitude for our blessings: the freedoms provided by America's exceptional promise; the support and strength from those we love; and the cherished memories of those we lost. We pray for continued healing, and honor their lives by working to expand the freedom and opportunity that defines America.