Tag Archives: America

19 Years After 9/11

September 11, 2020

19 Years Later, We Still Remember

Brad Birzer

Today, we celebrate—and remember, as we promised we would never forget—the 19th anniversary of the tragic events; that is, the brutal attack on American lives, on American rights, and on American soil led by a fundamentalist terrorist.

19 is an odd number, and yet an important number.  As I give this talk, I’ve been at this college 21 years.  My oldest son, Nathaniel, is a senior and 21 years old.  My oldest daughter, Gretchen, is 19 years old and a sophomore.  

19 years, indeed, has been a lifetime for many of you standing here.

Not atypically, I was teaching back-to-back Western Heritage courses the morning of the attacks.  One 8:00 section, one 9:30 section.  We were most likely on Pericles or Socrates. In between the two, a flustered student told me about the events in New York, but, of course, everything was confused.  Later that morning, my wife, Dedra, and I ran into President Arnn in the old Ethen Allen Room—who informed us quite rightly that Hillsdale would continue the day in class, as it’s exactly what the terrorists would NOT want.  

I’m sure no one in this crowd is shocked by Dr. Arnn’s strength of character.

2,977 Americans died on 9/11.  Lives were silenced, then; and, by executive order, the skies were silenced.  On that day, there were victims, there were first responders, there were heroes; all were American.

My favorite story—one that never ceases to get to me—is about one of the passengers on Flight 93: Tom Burnett—a 38-year old Wall Street Banker, father of three girls, husband to a beautiful wife, and a devout Christian.  This man, a former college football player for St. John’s College in Minnesota, a lover of business as well as of ancient Greek philosophy, helped two other courageous American men drive a jet airliner into rural Pennsylvania soil on a clear September morning, 2001.  “We’re all going to die, but three of us are going to do something about it.  I love you honey.”  These were his last words to his wife on his cell phone.

Liberty and sacrifice.  I was teaching that in Western Heritage that morning, and I was witnessing it all around us.

And, here we stand at Central Hall, September 11, 2020.  Right there, is our moment to men who died on Pennsylvania soil.  

Indeed, numerous Hillsdale men sacrificed their lives at the Battle of Gettysburg (in and around a little Lutheran town).  The 24th Michigan on July 1; the 4th Michigan on July 2.  Each day, Hillsdale College men sacrificed themselves for something greater than each of them.  They sacrificed for each other, for the college, for the republic.  They sacrificed for us.

Liberty and sacrifice—these words, these themes, keep coming back to me and, I hope, to all of us.

And, I am reminded of one of the greatest of republican martyrs, Marcus Tullius Cicero, murdered by his executive in 43BC.  He wrote, profoundly,

“Before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.  But the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines.  For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ one which he said ‘the republic of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’?  They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown.  

And what shall I say of the men?  For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the name of republic, but have long since lost its essence” [Cicero, The Republic, Book 5, Section 1]

As we live in a season of confusion, I wonder if we could write this not just of 43BC but of 2020AD.

And, yet, no matter what, the sacrifices remain. . . the voices are not silent. . . the sky is not silent.

Let us remember—those voices silenced on 9/11.  Let us remember the victims.  Let us remember the first responders.  Let us remember the heroes.  Americans all.  And, let us be like Cicero.  Let us be like the 4th and the 24th Michigan regiments.  Let us be like Tom Burnett.

May our colors never fade, may our voices never cease, may our skies rage: liberty and sacrifice.

God bless, America.

[I had the grand privilege of giving this talk to the Hillsdale College community at noon on September 11, 2020.]

The greatest day of my young, innocent happy life

By Richard K. Munro

Hank Aaron in the early 1960’s

When I was a kid (about 12) I wrote a short essay: “THE GREATEST DAY IN MY LIFE” It was about my friendship with Hank Aaron from afar. He knew me, in a way, I always had the same banner out there “NAIL ‘EM DOWN Hammerin’ Hank.” He always waved at us when he went out to right field.

And when the cop said, “This kid has your book on its first day out! What do you think? Could you sign it for the kid? ” Hank said, “What’s the kid’s name?”Rickey” , said the big good natured cop. The game was about to begin. He signed it and they passed to book down the dugout from player to player and back to the cop and then to my dad and me. He signed it with my Dad’s scorecard pencil.

My dad actually apologized he didn’t have a pen and I said, “Dad, nothing could be better than Hank Aaron to sign his book with my Dad’s scorecard pencil.” To top it all off the game was just about to begin.

The first man walked and the second man struck out. Then the announced him: “NOW BATTING, number 44 Hank Aaron”: Hank was all business at bat. No distractions.

The first pitch was a ringing double down the left field line for an RBI. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Here was my baseball hero and here he came through right then and there when he knew I was watching!

At 2nd base, Hank doffed his hat. I knew he doffed it for me.

So I wrote about it for school and said, THIS WAS THE GREATEST DAY IN MY LIFE

. As a young boy I loved baseball and my favorite baseball player of all time was Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves and later Atlanta. We were Dodger fans, of course, but the Dodgers moved away and I sought authentic Yankee Killers and my father entranced me with stories of the 1957 World Series. If you watch the 1957 official films you can see my father and some Dodger fans rooting for the Braves. Always was an NL fan primarily. My father loved Duke Snider and my grandfather loved Zac Wheat! But they saw all the great players of the 1920’s 30’s 40’s 50’s and early 60’s and told me all about them. The greatest part of baseball was sharing those days and nights with Auld Pop, my grandfather, my mother, my sisters, boyhood friends too but especially my father. We spent a lot of time together and I went to more baseball games with him than anyone else. Looking back I realize he really went out of his way on work nights and when he was on business trips in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta to get me in on some baseball games.

Once he and his business associate set me up with a beautiful southern girl. I was very polite to her. After the game, he asked her, “How did the evening go?” She sighed. “He’s already deep in love!” The man said, “Yeah? With who?’ “With Hank Aaron and baseball!” And though she was a very pleasant young woman I didn’t ask for her autograph or her address. After all, she had never heard of Babe Ruth or seen the Braves play. I was young enough (12) not to be distracted by feminine charms. What was a girl compared to BASEBALL? Of course, a few years later I skipped a few ballgames. After all, a woman is a woman.

And Hank Aaron had retired.

My mother said, “You aren’t going to miss the big game?”

I told her, “I have a rendevouz with a beautiful dame.”

“Does she like baseball?”

“Frankly, mom, I haven’t got around to that. All I know is have a date with a beautiful, dusky, dark-haired girl with a fetching smile who speaks English reasonably well with a slight Spanish accent.”

“So for a Latin lover you will miss the big game!”

“Mom, I will read the box score in the morning! You can tell me about any big plays.”

And I added, ” I will let you how my game will go. I expect to get , at the very least to second base. After all she is eager and twenty.”

At twenty I would not have written the same story as the GREATEST AND MOST MEMORABLE NIGHT of my life. She liked me so much we went to a Bosox Yankee Double Header at the old Yankee Stadium. We had a brief romance in our innocent way.

Perhaps the night or the game was memorable to her but I have forgotten her name. But I remember this.

She held my hand and kissed me goodnight.

And I never lied to her or caused her to cry. And there is no doubt, I remember the box scores and ball players more than the women of those years. But it was the time I suppose. Few of the women I met liked baseball or really wanted a serious relationship. And those were two things I knew would be part of my life: baseball and one girl to be my lifetime companion. God shone on me of course.

Hank Aaron circa 1968