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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 7, 2006

Keeping our country safe

Ceremonies abound this year to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorists’ attacks. They are listed in our community calendar and described in our letters and news pages.

We should, each of us, pause in our busy lives and remember that day of terror five years ago. It was hard, at first, to grasp the reality of what was happening. We didn’t know who had attacked or why.

But America pulled together in the wake of the attacks and most of the world showed sympathy and support. Five years later, much of the world is critical of America’s response and Americans themselves are divided.

Invading Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based, may have been sensible, but the bulk of our resources were then funneled to Iraq after Congress issued a carte blanche for making war.

We invaded Iraq for two false reasons — there were no weapons of mass destruction; there was no link between the terrorists who attacked our country and the Iraqis.

We have by our invasion inspired new acts of terrorism and attracted many Islamic extremists to join what they perceive as a religious war. We have driven away moderates who may have supported us and we’ve further destabilized an ethnically divided Middle East.

One of the local Sept. 11 ceremonies, hosted by the Knox Volunteer Fire Department, will feature a documentary, 9/11, made by French filmmakers. The Naudet brothers, Jules Clément and Thomas Gédéon, happened to be filming a documentary at a New York City firehouse on Sept. 11. Focusing on a rookie firefighter, the brothers showed the everyday life of the firehouse, where buddies cared about each other, before the call came to go to the World Trade Center.

Ordinary men, firefighters, duty-bound, became heroes, doing what was expected of them. Only later did the reality, the horror, set in.

Right now, men and women, soldiers, are fulfilling their duty, serving in Iraq. Some have been kept long beyond what they expected. Others are being called back long after they thought their service was over.

We were struck earlier this year, in February, when we interviewed a battlefield doctor, Richard Jadick, who grew up in Slingerlands. He was awarded a Bronze Star with a combat "V" for valor, as rare for a doctor as it is to set up a field hospital in the midst of a battle; doctors are usually safe behind combat lines.

Not Jadick. As a battalion surgeon in Iraq, in the midst of the battle in Fallujah, the war’s heaviest urban combat, he led a team of corpsmen to the heart of Fallujah, saving lives. In March, he was lauded as a hero on the cover of a national news magazine.

But Jadick told us in February he doesn’t see himself as a hero. He doesn’t even think of himself as especially brave. And he was adamant in saying he wasn’t acting for a political cause.

He’s a doctor who was saving lives — he was doing his job; that’s all, he said. Jadick said his work was "not for any political cause but because you’re out there with your buddies."

He stressed, "The military doesn’t get involved in politics. I’ve been over there and done my job."

Jadick was cited for saving lives of fallen Marines "with a total disregard for his own safety."

"It sounds better than it was," he told us. "I was scared. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run under a rock — but I didn’t."

Why not"

"There’s fear. But then there’s fear of failure. Fear of failure outweighs fear for yourself," he said. That fear of failure, he said, is a "fear of letting people down, the people you’re out there with. That’s why you do it."

How can you not admire a man like Jadick"

As a nation, we should be sure we’re not letting down our soldiers. We should be sure they are fighting, and dying, for a worthwhile cause. We owe Jadick and men and women like him at least that much.

Is there an end in sight" Is there a sense that the loss and maiming of life is serving some purpose"

Or are there better ways to keep our country safe" Are there better things to spend millions and millions of dollars on" Could we regain respect in the world and lead again with a benevolent vision, a positive mission"

If we work, instead, for political reform, for economic development in countries around the world, won’t we stand a better chance of being safe in the long run"

Five days after the terrorists’ attacks, the village of Altamont, like many places around the country, held a candlelight vigil. An Altamont minister spoke then — right from the start — about providing more equitable distribution of the world’s resources so the sources of hate may be diminished.

These are thoughts we should ponder as we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the terrorists’ attacks. We have a duty, too. As citizens of a democracy, we need to make our views known.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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