September 11th is now known as “Patriot Day” in the United States, observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Across the country, numerous events will solemnly honor the devastating loss of thousands of lives and the destruction designed to rip the very fabric of this great nation. We join in remembering those lost, celebrating those who bravely responded where terror struck, lifting up those who still suffer today as a result of the attacks, and honoring those who serve around the globe, fighting to protect freedom.
Eighteen years ago, 19 militants tied to the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda killed more than 3,000 people (including more than 400 police officers and firefighters) and wounded more than 10,000 others during three coordinated attacks on 9/11, masterminded by Osama bin Laden. It was the deadliest attack on the US in history and the most devastating foreign act of war on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Eleven days after the towers fell, the Office of Homeland Security coordinated a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to future attacks in an effort to get us to our new normal. Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international effort to remove the Taliban from power, began on October 7, 2001.
Many of us witnessed this, either on scene or as it aired on live TV. The images of crumbling icons, burning bastions of might, the brave dashing to save, the distraught fleeing and the efforts to rescue, then rebuild and memorialize will forever be emblazoned in our minds. I left the city a few days before, responded in every way I could when asked for help or if I and my family were OK, and returned to see the skyline I loved forever changed, along with the way we watch the sky.
While this nation has suffered and many still endure the emotional or physical scars of that day and its aftermath, survivors and family members of those taken from us have come forward with stories of bravery and triumph we celebrate. The Taliban has been weakened, its leaders removed, and the fight approaches its end.
On that fateful day, September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed the nation with this formal statement: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
Let us all, each one, resolve to remember and honor those we lost, those who rushed to rescue, and those who still serve today to protect freedom and project strength around the globe. Let us all be strengthened by the memories of how we have rebuilt and continue, together, to grow stronger each day.