Writing a column to be published on Sept. 11 is a daunting task. I wanted to write just the right words. I thought about all the things I could say about this day. One topic that stood out for me is what this day 11 years ago did to me personally and how it changed me.
To do that I need to first tell you a little story about something that happened to me recently. I have a friend who really irritated me. Actually, he went beyond irritation. I was pretty angry. I was to a point where I wasn't even sure I liked him anymore. I wasn't sure being his friend was worth the aggravation.
Then something strange happened. I was hanging out with some people who knew him. One of these people started talking disparagingly about my friend. I found myself becoming furious at this guy.
Who was he to talk about my friend this way? Doesn't he know how great my friend really is? Somewhere along the way, I realized that in spite of his faults, I care a great deal for my friend and respect and admire him.
Sept. 11 was like that for me as well. I wasn't irritated or angry with my country, but I was complacent. Growing up, I believed that my country was the greatest on earth, but somewhere along the way, I began to take her for granted.
When Sept. 11 happened, when someone attacked my country, I was angry. In my anger, just like when my friend was attacked, I realized exactly how great my country is. How exceptional she is.
When the terrorists attacked our country, they targeted symbols of what they didn't like about our country our prosperity, our rule of law, and our military. But the reason we are exceptional isn't because of those symbols.
When President Bush spoke to the nation after the attacks, he said, ''Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.'' He hit the nail on the head about why we are exceptional - our freedom. Earlier this summer, Mitt Romney was criticized for daring to say that culture matters when it comes to prosperity. In particular, he talked about how a culture of freedom where free people engage in free enterprise creates an environment where a country prospers and people can be lifted out of poverty. He was right.
The Declaration of Independence set forth the idea that we are all endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness. Our Constitution is unique in that instead of granting us rights, it restricts the government's infringement of our freedoms. It recognizes that, as Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan said, ''Our rights come from God and nature not from government.'' Our founders created a culture of freedom where we were given political, economic and religious privileges. No other country had those freedoms. Our country has prospered because of them.
Gov. Romney was accused of being racist when he gave that speech in Israel. I don't really understand that charge. Culture isn't race. That culture of freedom he was talking about applies to anyone who believes in it and is willing to practice it.
The great thing about our country is that inheritance we have from our founding fathers is available to all of us. My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. I'm proud of that, but I'm no more an inheritor of the culture of freedom than my friends whose ancestors came here in the 20th Century.
That day, I felt renewed patriotism and love for my country. I became more thankful for the freedom that made us great, but I also became more protective of that freedom. I realized that it could be taken away in an instant.
More recently, I've discovered that the erosion of freedom can be more gradual. The last three and half years, I've seen changes in my country that frightened me more than the terrorists ever did. I've watched as the culture of freedom has started to change to a culture of dependence. I've heard the president tell me I didn't build my business and someone else is responsible for my success. I've seen religious liberty eroded. These things make me angry just like the terrorists did.
On Sept. 11, I would have signed up for the military had they wanted me. I wanted to defend my country. Today, I still want to defend my country. Now I want to defend it from those who want to change it. I want to speak up and say, ''Enough is enough! I want my country back!''
I want to work as hard as I can to make sure that we continue to have a culture of freedom where everyone can prosper, not a culture of dependency where no one prospers. I believe that there are still more people in this country who believe in that culture of freedom than in that culture of dependence. I believe that our country can still be that ''shining city on a hill.'' I encourage those who still believe that to stand with me and work with me to defend our country.
Yoder is a Farmington resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.