FRANKFORT – It was shortly before 9 a.m that most Americans knew something was wrong that bright fall day 16 years ago.
Regular TV programming ended abruptly nationwide as video of smoke pouring out of a tower of the World Trade Center in New York City dominated broadcasts. A commercial airliner had hit the tower in what was at first thought to be an accident. When a second plane hit the second tower at 9:03 a.m., America’s worst fears were confirmed: The crashes weren’t accidents. The planes had been hijacked.
The U.S. was under a terrorist attack.
The next target was the Pentagon, which was struck by a third hijacked airliner at 9:37 a.m. A fourth and final plane—which some now believe was intended to be flown into the U.S. Capitol or perhaps the White House—crashed in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. after passengers fought the hijackers, putting an end to their plan.
The destruction left by the attacks claimed 2,977 innocent lives and injured over 6,000 more. It was the most deadly and destructive act of terrorism to date on American soil. But one thing it couldn’t destroy was the American spirit. People all over the United States rallied behind the American flag and the unity it symbolizes in the weeks and months following the attacks, supporting one another and their nation.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on his own 9-11 experience in 2011, said he felt America’s spirit as he drove a rental car from Washington, D.C. to his home state of California soon after the attacks:
“Communities throughout the heartland of America had come together, posting signs on storefronts, in front of motels [that read] ‘God Bless America,’” the secretary said.
The years since 9-11 have been hard for America. We have had ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East that have claimed thousands of American lives, a recession that cost millions of Americans not only their jobs and their homes, and a wave of societal change—including some unrest—that has divided the entire country along political lines. Many Americans are angry at the past and uneasy about the future.
Perhaps what we need is to remember what is good about America as we look ahead.
Two days after the horrific 9-11 attacks, President George W. Bush proclaimed Friday, Sept. 14, 2001 a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, both in honor of the victims of 9-11 and in support of our nation. He asked all Americans to mark the day at noon with memorial services, ringing of bells and candlelight vigils.
“We will persevere through this national tragedy and personal loss. In time, we will find healing and recovery; and, in the face of all this evil, we remain strong and united,” the President said in his proclamation.
Today, 9-11 is observed as both the National Day of Service and Remembrance and Patriot Day. U.S. federal buildings all over the world are instructed to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff. All Americans are called to perform some act of community service in honor of those who were lost. And all Americans are asked to observe a moment of silence starting at 8:46 a.m. EDT—the time that the first plane hit the World Trade Center. It is a day meant to unite us, heal us, and honor those Americans taken too soon 16 years ago this month, all because of the hate in someone’s heart.
I hope you will join me by marking Sept. 11, 2017 with prayer, service, love for our country and, more specifically, love for those we call our fellow Americans. I hope you will fly the U.S. flag with pride for the unity it represents, and help your neighbor.
We have lost so much, but we are still a great nation made even greater when we stand as one.
Have a good week, and I’ll talk to you soon.