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Sixteen years ago, the Twin Towers fell. Shat­tered glass and broken par­a­digms lit­tered the streets of New York City. 

Pedes­trians gazed at the descending rubble in dis­belief. Brick by brick, their naive notions of a safe and good world splin­tered as each stone hit the cement. 

A torrent of cement, steel, and glass hit the pedes­trians first. 

“The building started coming down, and everybody ran. It was like being on the beach with this big wave coming at you,” Fire Chief Tom McCarthy told the New York Daily News.

But perhaps it was the tide that rose after this wave had receded that wreaked the most havoc. It was a wave of a dif­ferent kind; one more crip­pling than the first. After the initial panic had faded, a new fear — a deep, dis­fig­uring dis­tress like none America had ever known — crept into the minds of the sur­vivors, like dark water slowly edging its way higher and higher onto the sand. 

Doubt in the security of their well-being and dis­trust in those who swore to maintain it sud­denly flooded the minds of those strug­gling to cope with their losses. Their country — the greatest, safest nation in the world — had just been attacked in the most lethal strike ever carried out on American soil. 

Like a knife to the heart, radical ter­rorists flew hijacked planes through the core of America’s eco­nomic presence. It was a sym­bolic attack, meant to strike fear in the hearts of free people across the world — people who had fallen into the habit of taking their liberty for granted.

But America does not cower. She does not sur­render to acts of ter­rorism. As the buildings fell and the wave of fear rose up on its hind legs, threat­ening to par­alyze them, hun­dreds of fire­fighters and emer­gency responders ran toward the shooting flames and falling bodies. Bravery led their charge as black smoke filled their lungs and horror overcame them.

Make no mistake: it was this courage that made America a target that day. Our bravery and resilience, the prin­ciples that Amer­icans hold dear, have made her an object of hate since the founding. Our fun­da­mental values — like consent of the gov­erned, indi­vidual rights, equality, freedom of speech and religion — threaten the enemies of liberty. 

As we watched the Twin Towers fall in silent horror, our enemies rejoiced. We saw buildings col­lapse; they saw the Western world begin to fall. But what they believed to be a fatal blow was only a glancing stun, like a boxer tem­porarily knocked to the ground. Into the chaos they ran, hun­dreds of brave men and women — children of the her­itage they sought to defend — knowing full well they might lose their lives that day.

The great irony of that tragic day is that though our enemies sought to destroy the truths this nation rests on, they did the opposite, empow­ering them in a way only a great obstacle can. The Western tra­dition that America clings to allows truth to prevail and strength to rejoice in the face of adversity — no matter how great.

Thou­sands of Amer­icans lost their lives on 9/11 pre­serving the timeless values that con­stitute the soul of this nation and form the basis of her gov­ernment. These prin­ciples gave them strength, courage, and resilience. 

Sixteen years ago, as the Twin Towers fell, the towers of American values rose high above the hatred, sorrow, and enormity of that day — and they stand taller still.

Kaylee McGhee is a junior studying pol­itics.

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Kaylee McGhee
Kaylee McGhee is a senior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Politics with a minor in Journalism. This is her fourth year writing for the Collegian and she serves as the paper's Opinions Editor. Kaylee worked in Washington D.C. last year and wrote for the Weekly Standard. Her work has also appeared in the Detroit News and the Orange County Register. Follow her on Twitter: @KayleeDMcGhee email: kmcghee@hillsdale.edu