I haven’t watched any of the television specials on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, but the attacks have been on my mind this weekend.
While most Americans vividly remember hearing terrible news on the morning of 9/11, I was living in the UK at the time, so the first half of the day passed routinely. Worked in the morning, watched the news over lunch, then went back to my computer. I got a call shortly after 2 pm (9 am eastern time) advising me to turn on the tv, because something bad was happening in New York. Needless to say, I didn’t get any more work done that day.
I had friends living in New York who were close enough to see people jump out of the buildings, or be covered in ash while making their way home that day. I didn’t have any loved ones in immediate danger, but I remember shouting at the tv, why can’t they rescue those people on the roof of the World Trade Center? They could see what was happening and the helicopters buzzing around, but they had no way out.
The attacks were a top news story in the UK for a long time, and I remember people talking to me about it everywhere for weeks afterward. At least 67 British citizens died on 9/11, either in the World Trade Center or on the airplanes that crashed. No terrorist attack by the Irish Republican Army had ever killed anywhere near that number of people.
My third-grader came home from school on Friday with a drawing of airplanes flying toward a building. His teacher had read the class a short book about the attacks. He had some basic questions like, were the people able to jump out of the airplanes with parachutes before the planes crashed into the building. I don’t think he grasped how mind-blowing those events were for everyone at the time. I would never have imagined someone could fly a plane into the Pentagon. I tried to explain to him that this was a new kind of tragedy, no one had ever taken control of an airplane in order to fly it into a building. People would have expected hijackers to force the plane to land and make demands, like let certain people out of prison. I eventually gave up trying. Maybe next year.
An acquaintance I haven’t seen since 1999 or 2000 showed up in one of my dreams the other night. In my dream, I didn’t know what to say to him. In real life, his father was on one of the planes that crashed into the twin towers. He had been booked on a Delta flight from Boston to Los Angeles, but at Logan Airport he switched to a nonstop flight to avoid the layover.
This is an open thread.
I’ve enclosed below reflections from the Iowans in Congress on the sad anniversary.
Statement from Senator Tom Harkin:
“The tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001 is a time for profound reflection. Our hearts and prayers are with loved ones of the innocent people who perished on that day. We honor the first responders who risked their lives – and, in many cases, gave their lives – assisting the victims in New York and at the Pentagon, and we also honor the amazing courage of the citizens on United Flight 93 who died preventing terrorists from reaching their target.
“Over the last decade, Americans have learned important lessons. We have learned that we are a nation that is resilient and resolute in the face of adversity. We have learned that, despite our often sharp political differences, we are united by our love of country, and we close ranks in times of crisis. We have also learned that our real heroes are not on our movie screens or in our sports arenas; they are serving our nation in uniform with enormous professionalism, sacrifice, and courage. At the same time, we have learned that unwise wars come with a truly staggering human and material cost, and they are not the answer to the terrorist threat that continues to face our nation. The answer, in large measure, is to hold firm to our values, to remain united as a people, and to go forward with resilience and hope. God bless America.”
Statement from Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01):
“Ten years ago, America suffered an unimaginable act of terror. We watched as planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania, and prayed for the well-being of friends and strangers alike. Countless Americans showed selfless courage that day-from the first responders to the volunteers, and all the victims who lost their lives.
“Iowans lost their lives that day as well. Tim Haviland, whose family is from Ames, worked on the 96th floor of the north tower; Michael Tinley, a Council Bluffs native, was attending a meeting at the World Trade Center when one of the planes hit; and Karen Kincaid-Batacan, a Waverly native, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. My thoughts are with these victims’ families on this difficult anniversary.
“Although a decade has passed, we are still feeling the effects of that day. We must never forget the bravery and sacrifice not only of those who lost their lives on 9/11, but also those who have made the ultimate sacrifice since then. Thousands of Iowans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to be on the front lines, and we have lost 68 Iowans, and another 477 have been wounded during their service to our country.
“September 11, 2001 was a day that changed the trajectory of our nation. I hope that we continue to honor the memory of those we’ve lost, and those who continue to fight for our freedom, by creating a better, stronger nation, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. “
Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02):
“On that early fall morning ten years ago, our nation experienced a horrific attack on our own soil. In response, instead of being divided, we were brought together as a nation. Ten years later, Iowans across our state, just like our fellow Americans, are again coming together to pay tribute to those we lost; to the firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel who risked their own lives to save others; and to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have fought overseas for the last decade so that we may live in peace here at home.
“But today is not just about remembering. Today is also a day that we give back to honor those who we have lost and celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Giving back to our community, not just today, but every day, is a way to renew the sense of unity and shared purpose that our nation felt in the aftermath of the attacks. Let us come together today on this solemn anniversary to redouble our commitment to honoring the legacy of those we lost by making our great nation event stronger and more steadfast.”
Statement from Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03):
Ten years have passed since Americans felt the first terror of the events of September 11, 2011, and we have been living in the aftermath of that day ever since. You would be hard pressed to find an American adult who does not remember what they were doing when they first heard that our nation was under attack. Today, however, it is more important to me that we reflect on what we as a country have learned since that tragic day.
Almost immediately, we learned about the power and generosity of the human spirit. Whether in the streets of New York City or aboard United Flight 93, heroes were everywhere, from first responders to civilians helping civilians on the street.
In the days and months following 9/11, we saw how quickly a nation can be united by an attack on our shared values. While there are so many differences between Americans, none of them were important when our basic right to move around freely without fear of violence was directly threatened.
Once the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were underway, Americans stepped up to serve and perform great acts of heroism to protect their fellow troops and civilians. It was another example in our long history of Americans’ dedication to service and commitment to country.
As a veteran and someone who deeply believes in public service, the lessons of September 11, 2011, must be remembered and retold even 10 years after the day. They have real applications in our life as civilians and also in how Congress should be working in the face of challenges and adversity. As Americans, we have a history of making it through even the toughest of times, and we must remember that as we work against the challenges of unemployment, debt, and continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let’s come together on this anniversary and set our sights on getting Americans back to work, rebuilding American industries, and bringing our troops home.
Editorial by Representative Tom Latham (IA-04):
A Decade Later – Remember, Reflect, Reaffirm, Renew
Washington, DC, Sep 9 –
It was a beautiful clear Tuesday morning. I awoke that day already in a somber mood — long before I had heard the first news reports of that fateful day. A memorial service was to be held that morning for the former Chaplin of the House of Representatives, and my good friend, Reverend James Ford. Pastor Ford served faithfully for many years as a trusted spiritual guide to Members of Congress while they were away from home serving their constituents in Washington.
As I began to make my way towards the door for the trip to the Capitol, I heard those shuddering words broadcast on the television in the other room: “We have reports that a small aircraft has hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan.” I turned to watch the beginning of the coverage of what would unfold to be events so horrific, so painful, and so indescribable that we could not even give it a name. We – for lack of words to describe the events of that day – refer to them with just the numbers “nine-eleven”.
Before the reports of an explosion at the Pentagon were broadcast, my wife Kathy and I had felt a rumbling in our living room that instinctively told us something was wrong. The plain, yet commanding, five-sided building located only a mile or so from where we were watching the events unfold on television, had just been struck. I knew from that moment, Pastor Ford’s family was no longer going to be the only one needing my prayers.
On that day, September 11, 2001, our great nation suffered previously unimaginable horrific acts against our nation’s citizens and our democracy in an attempt to shake our foundation of freedom. Even ten years later we can feel the deep emotion evoked from the countless heartbreaking stories of loss; children, wives, husbands, grandparents, friends, neighbors gone in an instant. I have always felt that regardless of our relation to the victims, as a nation we all feel the grief very deeply for every person lost in these senseless acts.
In the hours following the attacks, first responders rushed into the fiery wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and to a scarred field in rural Pennsylvania, scouring the rubble for survivors. If 9/11 taught us one lesson, it’s that we live in a nation of every-day heroes who rise from ordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things.
In the weeks, months and years following the attacks we’ve watched thousands of brave men and women – our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, family members and neighbors – volunteer to put their lives on hold to defend our country and the cause of freedom in our armed forces.
And we’ve been inspired by the families who suffered the ultimate sacrifice on September 11th or in the defense of freedom since that day as they all reach for the future while keeping alive the memories of the loved ones they lost.
The events of September 11, 2001, are forever seared into our country’s collective memory, and, in countless ways, we’re still feeling the effects. The best among us rose to the challenge in the moments after the first plane hit, and America has been fighting to meet the challenge every day in the ten years since.
Ten years following that horrific day in World history America is still healing. And, truth be told, we should never fully lose the scar of that day to remind us of the sacrifices of so many innocents who were lost in an attack on what we firmly stand for – Freedom.
On this 10th anniversary, let us continue to remember and pray for the innocent victims, the heroes and their loved ones. Take the time to thank the men and women in our lives who stay vigilant, who keep our communities safe and fight for our country here at home and on distant lands.
May we never forget that there is no tragedy that we cannot overcome in the United States of America. Because, as a nation of free people, we will continue to join together and recover from this tragedy. From the ashes of this tragedy we will continue rise up and prevail – because in America – every morning has the potential for new and even better beginnings.
Statement from Representative Steve King (IA-05):
“We are a stronger people as a nation. We’re stronger, we’re pulled together, we understand the value of freedom and the safety that we have within this country. We pay more attention than we did before to the values that came to us through the Declaration, through the Constitution, from our Founding Fathers. We recognize that our rights come from God and they must be defended. And they are precious and a dollar value cannot be put upon these rights of liberty and freedom that we have. It is our job to protect, preserve and defend them for the succeeding generations, just as those who have gone before us have protected and preserved our rights and our liberty for us.”