This day we are threatened by nature. Yesterday, the winds of Hurricane Harvey hammered Texas, and tomorrow Irma will be slamming Florida. It is a storm we will weather. We know we will, because we have lived through worse. We must remember this, because today is September tenth. And September 11, 2011 is a date no American can forget, marked as it is by four scars that will never heal. Four hijacked airliners carved the names of nearly three thousand victims into our memories, names written in blood. Three thousand names with more than three thousand families—and that is not even adding the number of injured, the number of rescuers, all losses that destroyed the innocence of our country. We were initiated on that day into a sad new world, scarred by tragedy that turned the sky from blue to red. How could we understand what was going on? The mass murder of our people, the senseless destruction, the planes crashing, buildings burning before our eyes. I’m just an ordinary guy. When it happened, I was bewildered by it all.
On Sept 11, this day, in 2011, Flight 11 and Flight 175 hit the twin towers.
The tragedy was filmed as it happened. We were glued to our screens, helpless, terrorized, mesmerized along with the international audience, the terrible scenes of desperate people making impossible choices: die in the burning towers, or jump to the unforgiving pavement. We cried, but we did not cry alone. The world cried with us.
American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, 64 aboard the plane and 125 in the impact, all fatalities.
On Flight 93, we saw our people become heroes. We learned of Burnett, Beamer, and Bradshaw, of passengers fighting the hijackers. “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” They rolled into history as heroes. How many lives they saved by their actions—an incalculable number—and these were passengers who acted against the hijackers knowing they would lose their own.
Children of today who ride airplanes are accustomed to today’s security protocols. It must be impossible for them to believe that there was a time when we simply walked aboard. There was no threat. But these days are different. We live in a world that irrevocably changed that day. It is a day we can never forget.
We tightened our belts.
We sharpened our defenses.
And we are not alone in this. The whole world is a more vigilant place.
The twin towers were a symbol of our prosperity, a couple of the world’s greatest buildings in one of the world’s greatest cities; and though the towers stand no more, our cities and our country goes on. The Pentagon was rebuilt. A Pennsylvania park commemorates the heroes of Flight 93.
I certainly mourn those who were lost on September 11; and I feel for the families of the injured, as I believe we all do. I may mourn our loss of innocence, but I can also take pride that we stand now, scarred perhaps, but stronger because of what we have survived. We have taken measures to make our world safer, but we can never relax our vigilance. We can never such a thing to happen to us again. On the ashes of the towers, we rebuilt. Some of us are still rebuilding. On the ashes of history, we rise.