9/11: ‘Moment of Truth’ arrives for us again

The following opinion piece appeared in The Atlanta Journal on Sept. 11, 2001.

By Thomas Oliver

Monday night on the History Channel, I watched “Moment of Truth” with historian and author Stephen Ambrose. It centered on World War II and the ordinary men and women who answered in various heroic ways the call to arms after our country was attacked.

Each spoke of that particular moment — in a foxhole or parachuting behind enemy lines or scaling a cliff with the enemy shooting at them like fish in a barrel — that was his or her moment of truth.

This morning, again on television, I watched history in the making, as our country was again attacked. The stories of the ordinary men and women who will answer this call are just beginning. But we will answer this call.

For make no mistake about it, the United States of America is under attack.

We have seen it coming in bits and pieces. In kidnappings. In embassy bombings. In the same World Trade Center being bombed. In our ships attacked by suicide missions.

We’ve heard the incessant chorus of chants of denunciations from this country and that. In terrorist attacks here and there. But it has been 60 years since our land was attacked by air, with planes piloted by the enemy intent on killing and terrorizing us.

And it is indeed scary to watch the replay of a plane fly into one tower of the World Trade Center. Scarier still to watch that tower later collapse. Frightening as hell to watch the second tower crumble.

But, as before, we need to be reminded that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. And that being afraid is the primary objective of this enemy.

This enemy doesn’t so much seek our land and our resources as much as it seeks to diminish our standing in the world. Our enemy has correctly ascertained that the only way in which that can happen is for the world to see us tremble. From self-doubt. Fear.

Our moment of truth has come. The next war has begun. It is very different from previous wars. The enemy seems to be in hiding, though we know the countries that harbor them. We have made mistakes in previous wars. The Lord knows civilians do suffer and die. There is no pretty way to wage a war. But there are proper responses of a free people who stand for freedom.

“There will be hell to pay in the weeks and months ahead,” said Neil Livingstone, a terrorism expert in Washington. “This basically amounts to a declaration of war.”

One response that is unacceptable is to hesitate. To second-guess ourselves. To wonder if somehow something we have done has caused this. To ponder whether the terrorists have a valid point. To pause for a moment to consider their claims against us.

As before, we are confronting an evil that is real and deadly. You don’t negotiate with evil. Or you do at considerable risk to your soul.

President Bush said: “Terrorism against our nation will not stand.”

Bush has been thrust into history as few presidents have been. It is his Moment of Truth, just as it is ours.

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