Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a fourth hijacked plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In all, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the first terrorist event to take place on United States soil.
In the days following those horrific events, the country vowed to never forget what had taken place. On the surface, that was a simple promise because it was one of those moments in history that if forever etched in your mind. If you ask someone, they most likely can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing as the events of that fateful Tuesday morning unfolded.
For me, I arrived at work at 9 a.m. We had finished building the Clarinda Herald-Journal on Monday and were planning to prepare for the next week. However, before, I even made it into the office my boss met me at the door and asked me if I heard the news. I had not turned on a television or the radio, so I was in the dark. He told me two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and a third had hit the Pentagon.
We walked next door to the beauty salon and were able to watch their small television through the storefront window. The south tower had just collapsed, and the images streaming across that tiny screen was unimaginable. Soon after, the north tower fell to the ground leaving a massive cloud of dust and debris that eventually parted to reveal a massive pile of mangled metal and concrete where the two famous structures once stood.
I was in shock as was the rest of our staff. We simply sat in our office asking if this had really happened. One of my coworkers went home to get a portable television. We huddled around the set most of the rest of the day fearing what would come next, yet I felt somewhat detached from the events. It was so overwhelmed with so many emotions that it was impossible to say exactly what I felt.
That separation from the reality of what had occurred lasted until the next day when I went to the Page County Courthouse. While talking to some people about the events and what it meant, I was asked what terrorism was. At first, the answer seemed obvious because I knew the textbook definition of the word. However, reality had just shown me and the rest of America the literal definition of terrorism. In that instant the situation became real and I knew the United States had lost that naive notion that it could not happen here. Not to us. Not to me.
In the days and weeks that followed we, as individuals and as a country, vowed to never forget that day and those that lost their lives. However, we also need to remember the efforts of the all the first responders who rushed into harm's way in an effort help complete strangers - whether they were fire fighters, police officers or medical personnel.
A sense of patriotism swept the country and we were galvanized as one against a new and dangerous foe. That same sense of patriotism arose in 2011 when then President Barak Obama announced to the American people, and the world, that the architect of the terrorist attacks that had occurred nearly 10 years earlier, Osama bin Laden, had been killed.
Another nine years have now passed and we will once again take a moment to remember that horrific day. However, this year of all years, we need to not only remember, but reflect on the importance of that day. We need to remember not only those who died, but the sense of cooperation and the willingness Americans demonstrated to stand and work side beside, regardless of their differences.
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