The Price Of Freedom

( Sept., 2001)

By Thomas A. Rice

You’ve all seen essays bearing this title: I know I have. And it is always moving, the staggering numbers listed, of those who gave everything they had, just so you and I could remain free. It always makes me shiver when I think of that. The price of freedom for this country has been incredibly high, and I am honored to live in a society where the freedom of the individual is so cherished, so protected that people die to preserve it.

I look at the shattered remnants of the World Trade Center, and I can’t help but think of how brave those firemen and policemen were, charging up stairwells, trying to help the wounded, while all the while a sea of humanity poured past them, looking to escape.

Can you imagine the courage it took, knowing that at any moment, one hundred and ten stories of rubble could – and probably would – come rushing down upon your head? And they pressed forward, into the darkness, searching for the lost, the wounded, giving those bereft of hope a fighting chance to live. I am saddened beyond belief when I think of all the families left behind, of all the children that will not have a father’s input as they deal with the challenges that a child must face growing up in today’s world.

My heart goes out to them, for I lost my father when I was eight, and I understand intuitively what the rest of their lives will be like. Pat was not a fireman, though a fire killed him. He saved our farm, but I would gladly trade one for the other. I am forty now, and I still think of him every day, I still ask for his opinion in my head, and I can tell you: Some of the most wonderful memories that I have were created during the days that I had with him. He was, and still is, my Hero. He lives in my heart and will never be forgotten, and I know, too, that these heroes who gave all to save strangers, will be remembered, cherished, and loved not only by the children they left behind, but by a nation that mourns the heavy price of freedom.

To those who attacked us, who would relish in the pain this tragedy has caused, I can say only that this tragedy shows the depth of human spirit that exists in America. You can kill our friends, our co-workers, our heroes. You can demolish buildings and disrupt our everyday lives.

But you cannot kill the ideals that built America.

You’ve had your shot, you’ve staggered us, and the pain is great. But what you fail to understand is that America is not about a symbol, or a President, or a building. America is freedom, the right to exist in a land that allows freedom of expression and religion, and all of us, every man, every woman, and every child will fight to preserve that. You have not killed freedom with your terrorist attacks: You have, simply, poked a hole in a hornet’s nest.

A well known quote from the bible reads, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” This time, however, God’s going to have to stand in line.

May God have mercy on your souls.


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