As we reflect on 9/11 some 20 years later, we mourn the loss of those 2,996 lives who were taken from us in the deadliest terrorist act in world history.
We remember too how America came together as one nation to assist with search efforts, help the families of the victims, support our first responders, and enable America to get back on her feet.
Today, those feelings are further complicated by the gut punch to the soul of America at the very thought of leaving our fellow citizens behind in Afghanistan.
Americans are concerned about where we are today as a nation.
Has the way we exited Afghanistan only emboldened terrorists and served to encourage future acts of terrorism?
Do our allies respect us any longer? Do our adversaries fear us?
These are dangerous times, and real threats to our national security abound.
A united country is required to confront these threats, but unfortunately America is more divided today than at any other time in modern history.
Twenty years after 9/11, we ask what is America’s future?
Where do we go from here and how do we come together as a people again?
Fortunately, we don’t have to look far to find a blueprint for American leadership on how we can become a neighborhood again.
On 9/11 and in the days following, N.Y. Gov. George Pataki showed us all what real American leadership is.
Pataki did much of the heavy lifting and did it with his usual humility that brings people together to get things done in times of crisis.
Pataki made critical, fast decisions on that Sept. 11 morning. He immediately shut down all bridges and tunnels and called up the National Guard.
He made the early decision to move the state command center from Albany to East 20th Street in Manhattan. That decision enabled both the New York City Police Department (NYPD) command center and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts to be concentrated into a single, cohesive, and seamless response effort.
Following 9/11, Pataki led efforts to build back New York’s economy and today he’s still fighting for 9/11 first responders who are dealing with serious health problems.
George Elmer Pataki is a special kind of leader.
A three term Republican Governor in a deep blue state, he is a living testament to President Ronald Reagan’s maxim: "there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit."
In his book, "Beyond the Great Divide: How a Nation Became a Neighborhood," Pataki cogently observes, "On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood. All Americans became New Yorkers." Pataki says that the goal of the terrorists wasn’t to kill 30,000 people and bring down the towers — the goal was to divide Americans.
Pataki wonders how the 9/11 crisis would have played out if America’s leaders were attacking each other on Twitter instead of working shoulder to shoulder to get the job done.
Twenty years later, given the historic divide in America today, Pataki asks: did the terrorists win? Pataki says, "We’re all in this together. We’re not in this as Republicans or Democrats. We’re in this as Americans. That was the case on September 11 and it’s the case in Washington now."
Last year, I was talking with Governor Pataki, and he said something that really struck me and I wrote it down immediately afterwards. He said, "Don’t ever bet against the American people. It’s the ordinary Americans who make this country great. And they are the ones who will get us through this and bring America back stronger than ever."
George Pataki, a humble man, son of a farmer and grandson of immigrants, who attended Yale University on an academic scholarship, has shown us all what real American leadership is.
It’s a blueprint to help heal our divide, get America back on the right track and enable our nation to be a neighborhood once again.
Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." He is the 2018 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II September 11 Garden Leadership Award for National Security. Read Van Hipp's Reports — More Here.
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