You don’t need me to tell you that today is the first anniversary of the terrible attack upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Unless you live in a cave, the memory of that day is probably etched indelibly in your mind; and you’ve probably been casting a wary eye at the calendar ever since you flipped it to September.

It’s appropriate, therefore, to take a moment to say a prayer for the souls of all those who were lost one year ago; and to give thanks for the way events have unfolded since that day.

If you’d asked me on September 12 of last year whether we’d make it a full year without another terrorist attack, I would have laughed out loud. Of COURSE they would strike again! And yet, they have not. We struck them hard in their home base, routed the puppet government that propped them up, and sent them reeling into the mountains, dispersed and defeated. That’s not to say that the threat is gone; there are almost certainly al Qaeda cells lying dormant around the world. But we seem to have bought some time.

We have also planted the green shoots of freedom in Afghanistan. Whether they’ll be able to nurture them to maturity is another story; Afghanistan has been at war with itself for as long as anyone can remember. But there is hope, and hope is a rare commodity in that corner of the world.

So, where do we go from here? That’s the debate we as a nation will shortly be taking up. It will almost certainly be a passionate and contentious debate. But it’s one we must have, for in doing so — in taking up, as free men and women, the momentous questions of war and peace — we reaffirm the values that are our proudest accomplishment and our historic legacy to the world. We demonstrate that openness and transparency are not weaknesses, but strengths; that our ability to hold our own opinions, and express them, free of fear, remains intact. In short, we demonstrate that civil society has not been overturned — and that, all by itself, is a sort of victory, and perhaps the most appropriate monument we can devise to honor the sacrifices of all those who lost their lives one year ago.