9/11 and its aftermath
Today is the 15-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The images of bodies falling through the sky, collapsing towers, a plane wreck in an empty field, and a giant hole in the Pentagon are permanently seared into my memory.
In the wake of the attacks, our nation set out to lead the world in a campaign to eliminate al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups that seek to attack us, kill our citizens, and impose their twisted ideology on every country on Earth.
Fifteen years later, it's clear we have more work to do. Despite some initial successes against al Qaeda, the group is once again expanding its network throughout the Middle East and beyond. Meanwhile, their close allies, the Taliban, are resurgent in Afghanistan, seizing wide swathes of once-liberated territory from the Afghan government.
And then there is ISIS, an organization spun off from al Qaeda whose atrocities are beyond belief. Its members' bloodlust is known intimately not only by their legions of Middle Eastern victims, but throughout Europe and the United States, where the group has developed expertise at conducting or inspiring terror attacks on innocent civilians.
It is a heavy burden to lead this fight, but history has shown that when America withdraws from its leadership role, unstable forces and malign powers fill the resulting power vacuum. There is no quick and easy solution - we are engaged in a generational fight against ruthless enemies. We have already paid a high price in this war, but 9/11 demonstrated that in today's interconnected world, threats halfway across the globe cannot always be confined to a safe distance.
On this anniversary, I'd like to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who perished on 9/11 and to the members of our military who died in the ensuing battles. I also hope you'll take a moment to thank the everyday heroes of today - the servicemen and women, first responders, and police officers who go about their jobs, often in dangerous circumstances, with little recognition or reward. On 9/11, when I saw these heroes run into burning buildings and get crushed in the carnage, their sacrifice stunned and humbled me - and filled me with pride to be an American.