Today, we mark the eighth anniversary of the attack upon our nation that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
It has been said that, much like the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, those of us who were alive that day will never forget where we were or what we were doing when we first heard the fateful news.
We remember exactly where we were when we first heard of the two planes striking the Twin Towers, and then of the third plane crashing into The Pentagon.
We do not forget the surge of pride we felt when we learned of the passengers on United Flight 93 and their sacrifice as they attempted to thwart the plans of the hijackers.
Nor do we forget the gaping, empty horror we felt within ourselves as we watched those two towers fall to the ground, just eight years ago.
There still are those in the world who consider themselves to be our enemies, and they will use this anniversary as a cause for celebration. They will congratulate themselves for performing an act of inhuman brutality that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people and shattered the innocence of millions more for years to come.
They will continue to look for ways to foster controversy and dissension among our leaders in Washington, D.C., and they will continuously seek to manipulate our own media as a tool to be used against us.
They will strike at innocent people anywhere in the world, in the hope of striking fear into the very heart of our nation and paralyzing us into a state of ineffectiveness.
"If we just leave them alone, maybe they'll go away," is what our enemies most dearly wish to hear from the mouths of the American people.
For me, and hopefully for many others, this serves as a much needed reminder. It is a reminder to all of us that freedom does not come free.
A lot of things can happen in the span of eight years. A person who was a high school senior in the fall of 2001 likely will have completed college, gotten a job, married his or her sweetheart and started a family.
But who has paid the price for the peace and safety that family enjoys?
While the threat of future terrorist attacks always seems to be looming on the horizon, each day that goes by without another strike on U.S. soil makes it that much easier for us to become complacent, and to take our law enforcement agencies and emergency services personnel for granted.
While the men and women of our armed forces continue to serve around the world to protect our freedoms and lay the foundation of freedom for others, our media continues to treat them as little more than a statistic - just another body count to be splashed across the TV screens of America on a regular basis.
It has become so easy for us to escape into our own personal pursuits - our jobs, our entertainment, our sports and leisure activities - that we often forget the very men and women who put their lives on the line every day to grant us that peace, that security - the freedom we have simply to LIVE.
And who is it that provides that freedom to us?
First and foremost, I believe that it is by the grace of God that our nation exists and has the freedom we enjoy today. Without His strength and without His mercy, there would not be a United States of America.
I also believe that God raises up a special group of men and women whom He calls upon to safeguard that freedom for all of us:
The single mother who serves as a volunteer firefighter and faithfully answers her pager at 3 a.m.;
The policeman and father of four who has faithfully patrolled the streets for 20 years;
The young woman who expertly treats an accident victim in the back of an ambulance on its way to the emergency room; and
The college student who has put his education and his dreams on hold so he can answer his country's call to serve in a foreign land.
These are the men and women we all know, the men and women who give of themselves each and every day so that others might live in freedom and safety.
They have given us a gift that we will never be able to fully repay. The best we can do is offer our thanks, and always remember the sacrifices they make on our behalf.
For when it comes to these men and women, we must always remember that freedom doesn't come free.
Sentinel Managing Editor Frank Jost can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.