The following is a transcript from the Pro America Report.
Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. Ed Martin here on the Pro America Report, and we have some work to do today. Thank you.
I know you think we’re going to talk about COVID mandates and all that other stuff, but we’re not… well, we will later, but I mostly want to talk to you about 9/11.
September 11, 2001. What you need to know today, what you need to know about 9/11, is 9/11 proved American exceptionalism. The actual day of 9/11 proved American exceptionalism and insofar as we can focus on what happened that day, we will never, ever lose our exceptionalism.
And a little bit of what I’m saying is borrowed, or at least shaped, by two different lectures that I heard. Dean Pete Peterson, the Dean of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.
Dean Peterson was in Washington, DC, this past week, and he gave two lectures. I happened to see both. And in the first one, it was a longer recounting of his experience as a young professional working in New York City on the day of 9/11. And he talked about that at some length.
And then in a second talk, he drew out a little bit further in the description about how his own calling to change from an ambitious young businessman to a guy pursuing public policy and at a Christian school because of a sort of calling that he had. It was really spectacular bookends conversation. Dean Pete Peterson of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.
Here’s what I want you to know. What you need to know is that 9/11… Now you may remember, I’ve talked about it some I grew up in a little town in New Jersey, about 50 miles from the Twin Towers. And I took the train from my little town into Newark and then into Jersey City to go to high school.
And so I went to high school in Jersey City about, I don’t know, ten blocks from the Hudson River and across the Hudson River was the Twin Towers. And so we’d stand at the corner of Grand and Warren, two streets in Jersey City and could look down one street and you’d see the Twin Towers looming above and you look down the other to the side and you’d see the Statue of Liberty — extraordinary place to grow up.
So when 9/11 happened, I was living in St. Louis, and so I was far from where I grew up. But I had lots of friends, friends that were cops in Jersey City, in Bayon and Hoboken, friends that worked in New York City on the stock exchange and in Midtown, all over the place.
We had a buddy from college who was a year older than me who was in the towers and is gone now and lots of people from my high school who were gone. Nobody in my grade, nobody in my graduating class, but in the one above and below and lots of people anyway.
But here’s what you need to know after 9/11, the stories that captivated everyone in the country, but especially in some way, the community in and around New York because you had friends that knew a cop from Staten Island, you had friends that knew firefighters from Brooklyn that were gone, right? That died.
And the stories that were told in the days after of the conduct on that day, the heroic nature was so perfectly American. You know the stories of the firefighters that rushed to the buildings, right? The stories of the off duty retired Marine from up in Connecticut who drove down in his Porsche, was about 40 years old or 45 years old, 42 years old. Got a haircut, put on his old uniform, drove down. And he’s the one with another guy that found the last two people that were alive, the Port Authority cops, in the rubble.
All these examples, examples of people who, like on the Flight 93, the guys that stormed the cockpit and took down that plane and died of course. Let’s roll… was it Todd Beamer? That’s his name. These stories that were told over and over. And somehow, for people, for me, at least let me talk for me – growing up in that area, you actually knew somebody’s cousin was gone, right?
Somebody’s uncle was a firefighter. So there was the six degrees of Kevin Bacon was like one degree all the time. And so even though I was then living in Kansas City, I was working in St. Louis on the day of 9/11.
But that week, it’s because we were there for court. And I was back living in Kansas City. And you’d read about these stories over and over and the heroic, as Pete Peterson called it, civic virtue that was so American. The stories of people.
There was a story of a man who stayed with someone who was in a wheelchair and couldn’t get out, couldn’t go down the stairs. And so he stayed with her. They both were gone. I think it was a man or woman. I don’t know. All these stories, one after another, of this civic virtue of people who were rushing to help. It was extraordinary.
And again, it proved at its heart, at the heart of America is that exceptionalism. You didn’t stop and say, I’m a black firefighter from Brooklyn. Should I go in that building? Some of those guys not, are they proud boys in there?
If you were a white firefighter from Staten Island, you didn’t say, I’m not going in there. That might be a… there was none of that. There was none of the divisions. It was Americans. It was Americans. And it was Americans.
And I remember there was a chaplain, a priest that was killed. Did you know the first person who was killed? I think this is right. Excuse me. Say it correctly. The first member of the firefighters that was killed was killed by a falling body. Think about how haunting that is. Right.
So in the midst of this evil, in the midst of this terror, in the midst of the fear, there were these unbelievable acts of civic virtue – that’s what Pete Peterson calls it – of running towards the problem, of solving the problem, of mourning the problem, of accurately recognizing what was happening and still plowing through it.
And I have to say, I was reading an oral history, cause it’s 20 years, obviously, a celebration on Saturday, September 11. It’s 20 years. I was reading an oral history of the, it’s 20 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that we were dominated still then by three main news anchors. I think it was Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw. Those were the three.
We still have evening news that were sort of dominant voices. And those three spent those days as the face of this. Remember Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, even I who like a lot of his politics and what he does, he’s become a larger than life, sometimes cartoonish character. He actually was back before he was… before 9/11.
But on 9/11, he became this quintessential American leader stepping up. George W. Bush, remember when he came to the pile a few days later. Came down there, you know, “they’ll be hearing from us.” The public acts of civic virtue were extraordinary, and they were informed, they were formed by what is the best of America. Of this care for your brother and sister, your participation in this community.
You know, there was a rapid sense of loss, but also there was a religious mourning. If you remember again, some way it feels more powerful because I grew up in the area, there were literally hundreds of funerals going on over the next couple months. I mean, hundreds and hundreds of funerals…bag pipes….
You know, what’s interesting is I listened to it as a book on tape. You can read it. Peggy Noonan has a book out a year or two ago on her best columns. It’s a compilation of her columns in the Wall Street Journal, Declarations is the name of her column every week.
And back then, she wrote a lot, she lives in New York City, she wrote a lot about the heroes. She wrote a lot about this civic virtue. It was extraordinary.
There’ll be a lot of talk this 9/11 about Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Osama, wars that didn’t work as well as they should have, this and that and the other. If you just go back and commemorate, and this is what Pete Peterson was talking about. And Pepperdine has this extraordinary event on 9/11.
They do it every year where they have thousands and thousands of American flags and flags on the lawn in Pepperdine, which is right down in Malibu, towards the ocean. They have one for every person who was killed. They put it out there in this extraordinary showing, and you can find pictures if you search on the Internet, but the commemoration of 9/11.
As Pete Peterson said, Dean Peterson said, we have to remember it rightly. Remembering it rightly is remembering what we did in response to what happened that was evil and not what happened months and years later and can be debated and talked about. Although that all has meaning.
But in particular, capturing the value of the courage, the civic virtue that was displayed by men and women on that day. It’s really worth doing. And for whatever reason and for the first time in a long time, in a way, as angry as I get when I think about 9/11 and as upset as I get when I go to see the skyline doesn’t have the Twin Towers… thinking about these acts of civic virtue, it made me happy.
It gave me a sense of joy about – in hell, in the midst of hell – there was these beacons of light racing towards the scene of destruction. It’s a great idea. It’s a great way to think about it. I salute Pete Peterson for what he did.
But when you remember September 11, as I hope you will. Besides being in your prayers, especially in your prayers for the families of those left behind, I just think that way. Think about remembering rightly the great acts of civic virtue that happened as an indicator, a celebration of American exceptionalism. Really worth doing.
Alright, we’ll take a break and be right back. Ed Martin here in the Pro America Report, back in a moment.