The Unexpected Patriot
On September 10, 2001, I was living the life of a traditional American mother. At the time, my three children were 12, 9 and 5. I was happy with my career in the law, having been appointed to the bench as a judge two years earlier. My docket was filled primarily with criminal cases that I loved adjudicating and found challenging. I have always loved helping people in need and contributing to my community to keep it a decent and safe place to live and raise a family. However, the reality of 9/11 would demonstrate to me that my world was no longer a safe place.
On 9/11, I didn’t know much about terrorist groups and their ideology. I knew even less about the Arab world and its culture. However, the events of 9/11 deeply affected me to my core and eventually caused me look within myself to find the courage and determination to fight terrorism on a level that hadn’t been seen before -- as a private citizen determined to make a difference against an enemy we didn’t recognize or have the governmental structure and laws to fight on their level.
Through my efforts, the US government would come to prosecute two of the largest cases of domestic terrorism and espionage in US history since 9/11 in the cases of 1) Army Spec. Ryan Anderson who received the largest conviction to date in the War on Terror -- having been sentenced to five life terms in prison for his crimes against our country, and 2) Michael Curtis Reynolds who plotted to blow up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline as well as four other energy infrastructure locations here in the US in what he envisioned as the “9/11 of Energy” plot. Over the past 10 years, I worked over 200 cases and threats of terrorism against the United States and its interests abroad.
With the ten-year anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 fast approaching, it is important that we not forget the day that changed our country and forever changed the course of history and mankind. Though America suffered the immeasurable personal loss of nearly 3,000 souls that day and and thousands of our honorable soldiers have given their lives in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the al Qaeda terrorists who sought to defeat America have failed to impale the American spirit of perseverance. As a proud American I believe that if our strength as a country is to grow, we need to identify what it means to be an American in a post 9/11 world and explore what we can do collectively and individually to pay it forward by selflessness and good deeds.
There are stories throughout history of individuals who have stepped up to become pioneers for the betterment of mankind. Too often we believe that our shortcomings, fears, and weaknesses prevent us from doing the unthinkable to effect change. However, if each and every one of us looks within ourselves, there is something we have to offer that can ultimately make a difference. It is my hope that in sharing my personal story and experience in fighting terrorism first-hand, that people will identify within themselves what it is that they can offer not only to our country but to our communities to effect change for the better of all.
Can one person make a difference in the face of insurmountable odds? The answer is, “Yes” -- knowing that the key to positively and productively being an Architect of Change requires each of us to identify where and how we can give of ourselves to make a difference.
I will leave you with one final thought and that is, What can you do to make your community and our world a better place for mankind?
Shannen Rossmiller was a mother of three and a Montana municipal court judge when she assumed the role of online terrorist-hunter after 9/11. Her work led to the founding a new field of espionage known as cyber-counterintelligence, and today she works closely with the FBI to find and prosecute terrorists. She lives in Conrad, MT. She chronicles her experiences in her book, The Unexpected Patriot.