September 11, 2001, started off normally for me. I lived on-campus at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA—a mere 20-or-so miles from the Pentagon. I was late waking up (as is fairly normal for me), and so in my rush to get to my 9am class I didn’t check the news web sites I usually read every morning. Thus, I had missed the early reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center tower in New York City.

After class, I saw I had received two voicemails. When I tried to check my messages, the call wouldn’t go through. I distinctly remember thinking (sarcastically) how typical it was that the one day I get voicemails would be the one day that the nearby cell tower doesn’t work. Little did I know that the two were connected to an ongoing tragedy.

Soon enough I learned what had happened in New York, and not long after that I learned what had happened at the Pentagon. The remainder of the day was a whirlwind of news-watching, prayer, phone calls, and—admittedly—a lot of unbridled anger toward the yet-unidentified perpetrators of that act of pure evil.

Every September 11, I make a point of thinking about that day. It’s important that we remember what happened and, more importantly, why it happened: there are people in this world who subscribe to a religious doctrine hell-bent on subjugating the entire world to its ideology. Adherents of radical Islamic fascism do not care who they hurt, maim, or kill in pursuit of their goal: the establishment of an extremist brand of Islamic Sharia law worldwide. We must not kid ourselves into thinking that this is anything less than a fight for the survival of free civilization, and 9/11/2001 was only the enemy’s opening salvo.

I also make a point of saying a prayer for the people who are willing to risk their lives to protect people like me who, perhaps selfishly, want to just live our lives and go to work and be happy. Police officers, EMTs, Firefighters, and the men and women of our Armed Forces deserve more thanks than we are capable of giving them, because without their constant (and often thankless) efforts the rest of us wouldn’t be able to live our lives the way we do. Let’s not take them for granted.