There will be many this week who will comment on the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.
Survivors and witnesses of the terrorist attacks on that fateful Tuesday morning will share their stories once again. They will relive the tragedy, horror and volcano of emotions that erupted that day so that the events are not lost to fading memories and the pain of old wounds are not allowed to grow dull with the passage of time.
It is easy to focus on the events of that day. It is easy for those who lived through watching it unfold live to feel both personal losses and what we lost as a nation. Indeed, anyone who has had a chance to visit the memorials at Ground Zero in New York, Shanksville, Penn. where Flight 93 was forced down and outside the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., has witnessed the hallowed reverence for the loss of American lives.
In those hours there were heroes who rushed in to help save lives. These include the firefighters, police and rescue crews. The ranks of heroes that day also includes civilians who, in making their own escape, took time to help others. Over the past 20 years, their stories have been told and retold so that their names and sacrifi ces are never forgotten.
Central Wisconsin is far removed from New York City, Washington, D.C. or even central Pennsylvania. Yet, the events of that sunny Tuesday morning hit here as well. People here, remember the skies going eerily quiet as planes were grounded across the country. They remember the increasingly frantic attempts to connect with friends and loved ones in those regions only to hear messages that all circuits were busy. Those who lived through it remember the fear of what was to follow. Was this just a first wave? Where would other attacks come from?
Events were canceled and previously unthought of security measures were imposed. Like a wounded beast, the nation lashed out in an attempt to bring to justice the madmen who plotted wholesale murder and destruction.
All that history will be talked about over and over again as the time draws closer to the 20th anniversary of the attacks this Saturday.
The challenge is to not solely focus on the events of September 11, 2001, but to also remember the events of September 12, 2001 and the days that followed.
Throughout every neighborhood in the country, American flags flew from virtually every home and business. Americans cast aside petty differences and came together. Partisan rancor and petty differences were set aside and, for that brief moment, America stood united in its grief.
If any lesson is to be taken away from the past 20 years, it is that while there are those who would seek to see America in ashes, the heart of the country beats strongest when faced with challenges and adversity. In those moments when we stand united in brotherhood under one flag, as one people we catch a glimpse of the “Shining city on the hill” that America can become.
This week take time to remember September 11, 2001. Honor the fallen, mourn their sacrifice and celebrate that America still stands strong.