It was one of those moments that will forever be etched in time. A day of unbelievable terror, horrific loss and stunned disbelief.
Eleven years ago, on September 11, 2001, our country suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. By the time the dust and ash settled, more than 3,000 of our fellow citizens were gone.
We were shocked. We were scared. We were angry.
As we saw our country being attacked, live on TV, we wanted to do something—anything! But the only thing we could do is watch in disbelief…and pray. We felt helpless in a world that had suddenly spun out of control.We couldn’t believe it was happening! Not here, not in America. We were the most powerful nation on Earth. Terrorism, war—those were things other countries had to deal with.
We thought we were safe from all that. We were wrong.
The instant that second plane hit the second tower, we knew America had changed forever. We realized how naïve we had been. And we recognized how much we had taken for granted living in a country like the United States. In the days following September 11, 2001, America came together like never before. We put aside our differences, put away our partisanship, and united as one people.
And it felt good. It felt good to stick an American flag on our car’s antenna, or to give blood at the Red Cross, or to donate money to help the victims’ families. Something was re-kindled inside of us—a sense of spirit and community Americans hadn’t felt in a long time. That’s where our enemies miscalculated. They thought the attacks of September 11 would destroy our will to fight. Instead, it brought us together and re-awakened our national spirit. We were proud to be Americans again.
But September 11 did more than restore our spirit. It also forced us to re-examine our society’s priorities. On that day, we learned true heroes aren’t found on Hollywood movie screens, or in Major League stadiums. The true heroes are the ones who put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe.
They are the firefighters, police officers and emergency responders. They are the American GIs overseas, who face danger on a daily basis to protect our way of life. For years, these men and women in uniform didn’t receive the respect they deserved from our society. On September 11, that all changed. We saw America’s finest at their very best. And many of them gave their lives in the process.
To us, it was bravery. To them, it was just part of the job.
When something earth-shattering happens in life, people remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened. September 11, 2001 was no different.
This wasn’t a tragedy that affected one or two cities. We were all under attack. And television took us right to the battlefront. It didn’t matter if we lived in New York, or Chicago, or Topeka. Because of TV, we were ALL in Manhattan on September 11, staring up into that clear autumn sky as it became filled with smoke and ash.
We were all in Washington, seeing that black plume of smoke rising over the Pentagon. We were all there—scared, and uncertain, wondering what the future had in store for us.
We’ve come a long way these past 11 years. Many of the key figures in the terrorist attack, including al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, have been captured or killed. Our government has successfully tracked and prevented other terrorist attacks. Ground Zero has been cleared and a memorial built. Many of the raw emotions of that September day have passed. But they are not forgotten.
Or, to put it another way, the wounds of September 11 have stopped bleeding, but the scar still remains. As long as there are history books to talk about that day, that scar will always be there. The lessons were tough, but valuable.
After September 11, America came together in a way we’ve never unified before. We came together for our own nation and stood together. We still face the evil that confronted us 11 years ago, but we know that as long as there is evil in the world, there will be good to fight it.