It's difficult to believe that the tragic events of 9/11 happened 22 years ago. Most teens and even young adults today know about those loaded planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and on Pennsylvania soil only by historical media or their older relatives telling them.
For most of us, life stopped on that day. It was a new generation's attack on Pearl Harbor. Just as most Americans learned of Japanese dive-bombers (forerunners for later Kamikazes) in 1941, most Americans learned the term Suicide Jihadist in 2001.
To be honest, I'm concerned for the younger generations today that aren't learning much about either of those terms or learning about them packaged in progressive and politically correct history lessons that whitewash their real meanings or contexts.
First, let me state categorically: though my wife, Gena, and I are Christians, we respect all other religions. Our republic was founded upon liberty, and the First Amendment protects all of our rights to believe according to our preferences and convictions. The volatility in today's culture proves how Americans need to return to a time when we can agree to disagree agreeably.
The problem today, however, is that too many Americans too easily polarize to one of two extremes, especially when it comes to 9/11 and Islam. We either lean toward Islamophobia (a fear of Islam) or we go to the other extreme by sticking our heads in the sands of ignorance as if Jihadism no longer exists or is not a threat to the U.S.
Our mantra in the early post-9/11 world was that we would "Never Forget." But have we? In our pursuit to get along with everyone, are we overlooking those who still want to destroy our country?
Do you think ISIS is obliterated? Do you think al-Qaida, which was primarily responsible for the carnage of 9/11, is no longer actively seeking to take down the West and America since Osama bin Laden was killed by our courageous U.S. military?
Let me give you a glimpse of some recent news that you likely haven't heard lately. And if you're wondering why you haven't heard it, it's probably because it's not the news narrative or ice-cream-flavor-of-the-day being presently played out by mainstream media.
Consider the titles of these recent terrorist news headlines:
From these posts alone, it doesn't sound like Jihadists have gone into retirement, does it?
I'm concerned that too many people in the U.S. are returning to a pre-9/11 mentality, one in which we are not worried about the threats of terrorism. I'm concerned that we're so focused upon our present internal problems (skyrocketing inflation and mortgage rates, the presidential election, Jan. 6 trials, etc.) that we're dropping our guards to future external problems (like Jihadism).
A compromising mindset toward the goals of Jihadists reminds me of the backdrop of one of the 20-plus actions movies I filmed.
In 1999, I had starred in a CBS Movie of the Week called "The President's Man" that garnered high ratings for the network. I played Jonathan McCord, the president's secret agent who masquerades as a university professor between assignments. Two years later the network wanted to make another film with me playing the same character.
During the time I was trying to come up with a story idea for the movie, Gena and I had dinner in Dallas with our friends, one being a Texas U.S. senator.
I asked the senator what she thought was the greatest threat to America. "Terrorism," she replied straightforwardly. "Our greatest fear is someone like Osama bin Laden sneaking a nuclear weapon into our country."
She explained that we had allowed our nation to become vulnerable to such an attack. "During the last eight years under President Clinton's administration, our security measures and enforcement personnel have been drastically reduced," she said. "That concerns me."
It concerned me, too, and I thought that I might be able to shed some light on the problem.
After dinner I called my brother, Aaron, and told him to get our scriptwriters to my house first thing in the morning. "I think I have the story line for 'President's Man,'" I told him.
The story we developed involved a bin Laden-type terrorist who contacts the president of the United States and threatens to escalate terrorism all over the world unless his holy warriors, incarcerated for their involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, are released. Of course, the president refuses to give in to his demands.
In our story, a nuclear weapon is indeed sneaked into the United States. The president is threatened and told that the nuclear weapon will be detonated if the holy warriors are not released.
That's when I come into the picture, as the president's main man. I sneak into Afghanistan where the lead terrorist is hiding out. I kidnap him and bring him back to the United States for trial.
That would be coincidental enough were if not for the timing of the movie's release and the rest of the story!
Interestingly, my conversation with the senator took place nine months before Sept. 11, 2001. I had finished my last episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger" in April of that year, then plunged right into working on the sequel to "The President's Man" in May. As we made the film, we thought we were creating a fictitious story; we shuddered at the possibility of something catastrophic happening in our country.
We delivered the finished movie print to CBS on Sept. 6, 2001, just five days before that horrible day that none of us will ever forget. Ironically, when the print was delivered to CBS, the original title was "The President's Man: Ground Zero." After 9/11, we changed the title to "The President's Man: A Line in the Sand."
As eerie and "coincidental" (or not) that the script's story and 9/11 were, that was only a television movie. What our nation experienced on 9/11 was real life. And the grief of those who still suffer from the loss of loved ones on that tragic day is still more real than life itself. May God continue to comfort and heal them.
The truth is, despite our political preferences and persuasions, the terrorist threat against the U.S. remains higher than ever.
In an article titled, "Nuclear Terrorism: How Big of a Threat?" George Washington University's National Security Archive warned us: "[Since] the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, how concerned Americans should be over threats of nuclear terrorism remains a subject of vigorous debate. Declassified documents have confirmed that the U.S. (and other) governments have anticipated the possibility of a terrorist nuclear incident at high-profile events. … Ever since 9/11, U.S. experts have been particularly interested in whether al-Qaida is trying to acquire a nuclear device."
That is why I hope that whoever our next president is, he is militarily passionate and never drops his guard on the global war on terror. It's imperative every president first be a strong commander in chief. Otherwise, my television movie might someday, tragically, have another prophetic consequence.
Like many of you, Gena and I pray every day that nothing like 9/11 will ever happen again. But only if we are prepared and stay alert, and our country seeks God in genuine prayer, will we prevail and possibly prevent another such tragedy.
Every year on 9/11, I think about the comfort we personally and as a nation can receive from Almighty God as is describes with a numerical equivalent in Psalm 91:1: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."
I promise you this, so help me, God: We patriots will never forget.
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