Early September has long been marked by a major and joyous holiday – Labor Day – during which we celebrate the working men and women who build and maintain America. It puts the spotlight on the better aspects of our nation – teamwork, accomplishment, optimism.
Now, that celebration is followed by a more somber occasion and solemn obligation, as we remember the several thousand civilians, from all walks of life, who fell victim to terrorist attacks on 9/11.
The plumes of dark smoke rising that September morning, from the Twin Towers, from the Pentagon, from the field in Somerset County, will forever cast a shadow over our hearts and our minds this time of year.
In the early hours of September 11, 2001, the views and values and lifestyles of the people of Milford and the people of Manhattan seemed very far apart. A few tragic hours later, Milford, Manhattan, and communities across our country were united in shock, grief, anger, and determination.
We are grateful that individuals such as Dan Potter and Jean Potter bear witness to the horrific events of September 11th. Bearing witness can be very emotionally painful, but it helps to bind us, to make us whole, to help us find meaning where there seems none. There are always those who want to deny, or diminish, or dismiss catastrophic events. Those who were there, who can tell their stories, who can tell of the last words or the last actions of those lost, etch the memory in our national recollection forever.
When so many lives are taken, so much is lost. Talent, contributions, energy, inspiration, leadership. So many kids deprived of the love and guidance a parent would provide. So many parents denied the joy of seeing successes and accomplishments of sons and daughters. So many spouses deprived of supportive and enriching partners.
The September start of school brings lessons to the forefront. As part of our remembrance of 9/11, we recite the lessons learned that tragic day.
The hard lessons:
The shock over the audacity of the terrorist attacks.
The appalling extent of the damage and the cost in lives, and the sudden demonstration of our vulnerability.
The realization of the hatred harbored elsewhere toward our principles, our institutions, and our way of life.
The uplifting lessons:
The sacrifices hundreds would make to try to save total strangers.
The incredible bravery and devotion to duty of our uniformed protectors and countless volunteers.
The outpouring of generosity, from so many places, manifested in so many ways.
America’s ability to recover and rebuild from serious setback is one of the things that has made our nation great. In the aftermath of 9/11, we found common purpose. Leaders and citizens alike sought common ground, rather than looking for cracks in which to drive wedges.
Such accord has been found on a vital matter. On this eighth anniversary, the questions about design, property acquisition, and funding for a Flight 93 memorial seem at last settled. Once the permanent memorial is completed, future generations will understand that, here in Pennsylvania, lives were courageously given in the first battle of the war against terror.
As the Soldiers and Sailors Monument exemplifies, we have a long and proud tradition locally of honoring those who served, those who defended democracy, those who protected us.
So shall we have a long tradition of remembering the innocent lives lost to the terrorist attacks, those who sacrificed themselves in gallant rescue efforts, and the passengers of Flight 93 who demonstrated the kind of courage almost beyond our understanding.
Our observance is first and foremost about remembering the victims, who they were, what they believed in, how they lived. On this solemn day, our thoughts and our prayers are with those who perished.
Our observance is also about showing respect, for their families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Our ultimate tribute is to come together in unified efforts to improve and strengthen America. Just as the strangers on Flight 93 came together to defend others. Just as so many individuals and units came together for rescue efforts in New York. Just as the nation came together to improve homeland security and conduct the war against terror.
United we stood then. United we must stand today. United we must stand tomorrow. In this way, we forever remember and honor the victims of 9/11.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson