In just a few days, America will observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Although two decades have passed since 19 terrorists flew hijacked commercial airliners into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the memories of that day and the emotions the attacks stirred remain raw. On Sept. 11, we will recall the 2,977 lives lost. We’ll honor the memory of the 415 first responders who died trying to save others. We’ll pray for the families of the victims, and all those who continue to suffer from injuries or health effects related to the recovery and clean-up.
I’m sure that each one of us holds vivid memories of where we were and what we were doing that fateful day. In my case, I was a senior in high school when the towers were hit. I remember sitting in my AP biology class with the TV on live when the second tower was hit. Whenever I see images from 9/11, my mind races back to that moment and the complex feelings of anger and fear. But also a strong sense of national pride that would help our nation weather the storm. One of my most powerful memories – one I assume is shared by many Americans – is the moment President George W. Bush, with a bullhorn in hand, climbed atop a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, put his arm around retired firefighter Bob Beckwith and addressed the workers sifting through the tower’s debris.
When a worker shouted that they could not hear, the president responded with words that ring in our hearts today: “I can hear you!” he said. “The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
That moment captured so much about America. The crowd’s spontaneous cheers of “USA! USA!” convey the determination of the American people to avenge and overcome the attacks. The fact that the firefighter standing with the president had been retired from the department for seven years, but still turned out to help with rescue and recovery, speaks volumes about the desire to serve that swept our nation.
In a few days, the nation will pause to remember. Survivors will gather for ceremonies at the site of the attacks. The names of the fallen will be read aloud, and we will honor their sacrifices. We will mourn, and we will reflect.
Much has happened in the 20 years since 9/11. The nation has rebuilt the physical damage done on that day, and we’ve done our best to heal the emotional wounds. We’ve hunted down the man who inspired the attacks and brought him to justice. We’ve waged wars to combat the forces of terrorism. The work is not done, but America endures. It’s up to historians to write the final chapters of the 9/11 story. For us, we remember, and never forget.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties in the Missouri Senate. Please contact my office at (573) 751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov/mem34.