As the nation enters this weekend to commemorate an anniversary many of us would rather forget, I feel the need to implore us all to recall a specific element of that event we are remembering.
It’s known these days simply as “9/11.” It broke wide open in front of us 20 years ago. Terrorists hijacked four jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died that day.
Many of them happened to be men and women who rushed into the inferno in New York. They were firefighters, police officers and medical personnel. They sought to save lives imperiled by the flames, particularly those that consumed the towers. They were the embodiment of untold courage. They taught us all the meaning of service to the community, to the country and to the world.
I want to remember these people. I want to honor them and to use these words to suggest that we owe them eternal gratitude for the service they perform every day.
These men and women take oaths to protect us and to serve us. On 9/11, not a single one of them went to work that morning believing they would run into the inferno ignited by madmen. Many of them died in that rush into harm’s way; many others lived to tell their own stories.
I also want to offer a word of tribute to the passengers who rose up to right the terrorists who hijacked the jetliner that ended up crashing into the field in Shanksville, Pa. All of them performed heroic acts that defy my level of understanding.
Many of our brave first responders suffered medical calamities as a result of what they endured. Still more of them have battled emotional trauma now known as PTSD.
We toss the term “hero” around far too loosely to suit my taste. I don’t use the word often in this forum or even when I speak about it. The folks who answered the call when the jets crashed into our lives on 9/11 all were heroes in the very finest sense of the word.
We must honor them always … and forever.