Tag Archives: Constitution

Memories of 9/11

Perhaps one could say this article is a day late.  September 11 is usually a busy day for me.  I visit my Grandfather at Riverside Memorial Cemetery.  He fought in World War II.  I spend time in deep thought.  I try to treat the day as a day of mourning.  9/11 has always been a day of mourning for me, but it was 13 months after the act of war against the United States that my feelings about what had happened truly became clear.

Two hijacked jets struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center during the early morning hours of September 11, 2001. When the 110 floors of skyscrapers collapsed, among the missing were 343 firefighters bravely in the process of attempting to save as many lives as possible. In the weeks that followed was an unprecedented recovery effort at a site that became known later as “Ground Zero.”

Another jetliner flew into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington DC., less than an hour later. A portion of the Pentagon was severely damaged by fire, and one section of the building collapsed.

A fourth aircraft never made it to its destination. United Airlines Flight 93 was on a suicide mission as well, but the crew and passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings that morning. “Let’s Roll!” was the rallying cry, and once the hijackers realized they had lost control of the situation they flew the plane into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In California I was on my way to a construction jobsite, listening to CDs, when the events transpired. When I got to the construction site, a fellow construction worker there to help repair our equipment after a break-down, asked, “Did you hear about what happened in New York?”

“No, what happened?” I asked.

“A plane,” he said, “flew into some skyscrapers. Nobody knows why, but one guy on the radio was saying that he believed it was deliberate.”

More and more information leaked to us as the day proceeded, and it became more apparent as the hours passed that not only were the events deliberate, they were an act of war.

I listened to the radio all the way home, receiving a little information here and there, but never really understanding the severity of the attacks, or the reality that it was terrorism.

When I got home, my front door was open. The day was warm, and my wife left the door open to let the air in. As I stepped up on my front porch, and peered into my living room, my eyes caught the television screen. The image was one of a plane flying into an already smoking pair of towers. The impact was incredible, sending flames through the building. People screamed, unable to believe what they were witnessing. It was then that I realized the terror of what had happened. My heart crawled into my throat, and my eyes welled up in tears.

What I was witnessing was an attack against America.

When the September 11 attacks happened, I was speechless. I even attempted to get back into the military, but my injuries I was discharge regarding were severe enough that I was unable to return to military service.

In October of 2002, my wife and I visited Ground Zero in New York City. I bought a hat with an image of the twin towers, and the words “Never Forget,” on it. A small painting with the firemen hoisting the American Flag was on sale nearby, and I bought that too.

When I walked up to the green fencing surrounding the hole that used to be the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never seen the Twin Towers in person. This was my first trip to the northeast, and it happened to be thirteen months after the September 11 attacks. I peered through a hole that had been torn in the green fabric on the construction fencing, and as I looked down I witnessed a huge hole in the ground with twisted subway tracks at the bottom. To my left, on a building that had sustained a little damage, hung a giant mural of the American Flag, and the words “Never Forget.”

A man standing beside me looked through the hole in the fencing as I pulled away from it. After he spent a few moments looking through the hole, I said, “I never saw what they looked like.”

“You mean the towers?” he asked.

“Yeah, the World Trade Center. This is my first trip to New York. I am from Los Angeles, and I never saw what the towers looked like.”

The man lowered his eyes, and said, “The New York skyline is not the same. They dominated the skyline. It’s not the same.”

“Were they tall?” I asked.

“They towered over the other skyscrapers. Now, when you are outside the city, and you look towards the city, you can tell that something is missing. The skyline is not the same.”

We were silent for a moment, then he asked, “Have you seen the Statue of Liberty?”

“Yes,” I replied. “This morning. She’s beautiful.”

My eyes began to well up with tears as I recounted the experience of meeting Lady Liberty for the first time, even though I couldn’t get close enough to touch her, or go inside, because of heightened security.

“Yes,” he said, “she is lovely.”

“I was at the Arlington Cemetery yesterday. Saw the Statue of Liberty this morning. Then we came here.”

The man turned to face me, his eyes were wet. “I worked in the towers,” he said. “I was running late to work, that morning. I watched the planes fly into the towers from my car. I was supposed to be in them that morning. The towers, I mean. I haven’t been back here since. Today is my first visit to the hole that once was the twin towers since it happened.

“I lost a lot of friends, that day,” he continued. “People were running in all directions. We didn’t know what to think. We just knew that what was happening was horrible. When the second plane flew into the tower, I knew it was no accident. They meant to do this. They meant to kill thousands of people.

“It only took a couple hours for the towers to fall. I was far enough away so I wasn’t in danger, but the white cloud after they fell was horrendous. The smoke and dust covered the entire city. It seemed like there was no escape. The people. All of those people in the towers. All of those people in the streets near the towers. They were dead. All of them. They were dead.”

I didn’t know what to say, but as I looked around I noticed that we were no longer alone. A group of about twenty people had surrounded us, listening to the man tell me about the day the towers fell. Some of them were probably locals, but I am guessing most of them were tourists. Nonetheless, they were all crying. They were crying with him, feeling his grief. Feeling his pain.

Reaching over, I placed my hand on the man’s shoulder, and he suddenly, to my surprise, reached over and pulled me into a hug. He wept on my shoulder like a child, releasing the anger and pain of a year’s worth. Nobody walked away. Everyone remained around us, each with their head bowed, mourning with him, praying for all of us.

We stood near that green fence around the hole that used to be the World Trade Center Twin Towers for quite a while, in a tearful embrace. At that moment, I was no longer a Californian, and he was no longer a New Yorker. We were Americans. We were Americans grieving for our fallen.

Afterward, we shook hands, and as he looked me in the eye he said, “Never forget.”

Another tear rolled down his wet cheeks.

I nodded, but said nothing as our hands separated, and the man walked away. The crowd slowly dispersed, and my wife walked up to me after walking up from around the corner asking, “Did I miss something?”

“Yeah,” I said, “But I couldn’t describe it properly if I tried.”

It was at that moment that 9/11 truly became alive to me. The disconnect I had before, being a West Coast Southern Californian, was gone. The image of the hole below became etched in my memory. The tears of the people around me as the man that had lost his skyline wept remains with me still.

A family member later bought a book for me titled “Portraits 9/11/01,” which is the collected “Portraits of Grief” from the New York Times, and I read each and every one of the portraits of the people listed in that book. Another book, given to me by my mother, titled “Report From Ground Zero” by Dennis Smith, who was one of the firefighters on the scene, served to educate me more on what happened that day, and each day that followed.

I have a portrait of the World Trade Center on my office wall. It actually has two images in it, both showing what the skyline looked like before 9/11, with the two towers dominating the scene. At the bottom the words read, “World Trade means World Peace.”

Unfortunately, to those 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, peace was the last thing on their mind. Instead of peace, on that morning, two hijacked jetliners struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The 110 stories of both towers collapsed, and nearly 3,000 men, women and children died that day.

The man who wept told me to never forget.

We Shall Never Forget.

Why Our Founders Required an Oath to Include ‘So Help Me God’

Why Our Founders Required an Oath to Include ‘So Help Me God’

Bill Federer
Why has the tradition in America been for oaths to end with “So Help Me God”?
The military’s oath of enlistment ended with “So Help Me God.”
The commissioned officers’ oath ended with “So Help Me God.”
President’s oath of office ended with “So Help Me God.”
Congressmen and Senators’ oath ended with “So Help Me God.”
Witnesses in Court swore to tell the truth, “So Help Me God.”
Even Lincoln proposed an oath to be a United States citizen which ended with “So Help Me God.”

On DECEMBER 8, 1863, Lincoln announced his plan to accept back into the Union those who had been in the Confederacy with a proposed oath:

“Whereas it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States…Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion … that a full pardon is hereby granted to them…with restoration of all rights of property … upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath … to wit:
“I, ______, do solemnly swear, in the presence of ALMIGHTY GOD, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves… and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves… SO HELP ME GOD.”

A similar situation was faced by Justice Samuel Chase, who was the Chief Justice of Maryland’s Supreme Court in 1791, and then appointed by George Washington as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, 1796-1811.
In 1799, a dispute arose over whether an Irish immigrant named Thomas M’Creery had in fact become a naturalized U.S. citizen and thereby able to leave an estate to a relative in Ireland.

The court decided in M’Creery’s favor based on a certificate executed before Justice Samuel Chase, which stated:

“I, Samuel Chase, Chief Judge of the State of Maryland, do hereby certify all whom it may concern, that … personally appeared before me Thomas M’Creery, and did repeat and subscribe a declaration of his belief in the Christian Religion, and take the oath required by the Act of Assembly of this State, entitled, An Act for Naturalization.”
An oath was meant to call a Higher Power to hold one accountable to perform what they promised. . . . Courts of Justice thought oaths would lose their effectiveness if the public at large lost their fear of the God of the Bible who gave the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

New York Supreme Court Chief Justice Chancellor Kent noted in People v. Ruggles, 1811, that irreverence weakened the effectiveness of oaths:
“Christianity was parcel of the law, and to cast contumelious reproaches upon it, tended to weaken the foundation of moral obligation, and the efficacy of oaths.”

George Washington warned of this in his Farewell Address, 1796:

“Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in the Courts of Justice?”
In August of 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville observed a court case:

“While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul.”
The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all confidence of the court in what he was about to say.

The newspapers related the fact without any further comment. The New York Spectator of August 23, 1831, relates the fact in the following terms: “The court of common pleas of Chester County (New York), a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God.”

The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice: and that he knew of no case in a Christian country, where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.’” Oaths to hold office had similar acknowledgments.

The Constitution of Mississippi, 1817, stated: “No person who denies the being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of the State.”
The Constitution of Tennessee, 1870, article IX, Section 2, stated:
“No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.”

The Constitution of Maryland, 1851, required office holders make “[a] declaration of belief in the Christian religion; and if the party shall profess to be a Jew the declaration shall be of his belief in a future state of rewards and punishments.”

In 1864, the Constitution of Maryland required office holders to make “[a] declaration of belief in the Christian religion, or of the existence of God, and in a future state of rewards and punishments.”

The Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1776, chapter 2, section 10, stated:
“Each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: ‘I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and Punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.’”

The Constitution of South Carolina, 1778, article 12, stated: “Every…person, who acknowledges the being of a God, and believes in the future state of rewards and punishments… (is eligible to vote).”
The Constitution of South Carolina, 1790, article 38, stated: “That all persons and religious societies, who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshiped, shall be freely tolerated.”

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court stated in Commonwealth v. Wolf (3 Serg. & R. 48, 50, 1817:

“Laws cannot be administered in any civilized government unless the people are taught to revere the sanctity of an oath, and look to a future state of rewards and punishments for the deeds of this life.”
It was understood that persons in positions of power would have opportunities to do corrupt backroom deals for their own benefit.

But if that person believed that God existed, that He was watching, and that He would hold them accountable in the future, that person would hesitate, thinking “even if I get away with this my whole life, I will still be accountable to God in the next.” This is what is called “a conscience.” But if that person did not believe in God and in a future state of rewards and punishments, then when presented with the temptation to do wrong and not get caught, they would give in.

In fact, if there is no God, and this life is all there is, they would be a fool not to.
This is what President Reagan referred to in 1984: “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience.”

William Linn, who was unanimously elected as the first U.S. House Chaplain, May 1, 1789, stated: “Let my neighbor once persuade himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket, and break not only my leg but my neck. If there be no God, there is no law, no future account; government then is the ordinance of man only, and we cannot be subject for conscience sake.”

Sir William Blackstone, one of the most quoted authors by America’s founders, wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1770):
“The belief of a future state of rewards and punishments, the entertaining just ideas of the main attributes of the Supreme Being, and a firm persuasion that He superintends and will finally compensate every action in human life (all which are revealed in the doctrines of our Savior, Christ), these are the grand foundations of all judicial oaths, which call God to witness the truth of those facts which perhaps may be only known to Him and the party attesting.”

When Secretary of State Daniel Webster was asked what the greatest thought was that ever passed through his mind, he replied “My accountability to God.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote to Yale President Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790: “The soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its conduct in this.” Benjamin Franklin also wrote:

“That there is one God, Father of the Universe… That He loves such of His creatures as love and do good to others: and will reward them either in this world or hereafter, that men’s minds do not die with their bodies, but are made more happy or miserable after this life according to their actions.”

John Adams wrote to Judge F. A. Van der Kemp, January 13, 1815:
“My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; in the hope of pardon for my offenses; upon contrition… In the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation, of which I am but an infinitesimal part. I believe, too, in a future state of rewards and punishments.”

John Adams wrote again to Judge F. A. Van de Kemp, December 27, 1816:
“Let it once be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future state, and my advice to every man, woman, and child, would be, as our existence would be in our own power, to take opium. For, I am certain there is nothing in this world worth living for but hope, and every hope will fail us, if the last hope, that of a future state, is extinguished.”

John Adams wrote in a Proclamation of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer, March 6, 1799:
“No truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration… than… acknowledgment of… a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments.”

‘American Minute’ is a registered trademark. Permission is granted to forward, reprint or duplicate with acknowledgement towww.americanminute.com. Bill Federer is available for speaking engagements to large or small groups. Mr. Federer can be reached at wjfederer@gmail.com or by phone: 314-540-1172.

WILLIAM J. FEDERER is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s heritage. Bill’s AMERICAN MINUTE radio feature is broadcast daily across America and by the Internet. His ‘Faith in History’ television airs on the TCT Network on stations across America and via DirectTV.

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