Guest Column by State Sen. Jean Leising
“Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. This is a day all Americans from every walk of life unite in resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”
President George W. Bush, Sept. 11, 2001
If you asked someone where they were at 8:46 a.m. 10 months ago, 10 weeks ago or even 10 days ago, chances are, they’d have trouble remembering.
But, what if you ask,“Where were you the morning of Sept. 11, 2001?” The answer may be troubling, but likely etched in their memory for a lifetime.
Ten years ago, at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Soon, another followed. Then a third crashed into the Pentagon while a fourth hijacked plane never made it to its intended target — believed to be the White House — because it was overrun by courageous passengers who were determined to stop terrorism, even if it meant sacrificing their own lives. That plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Penn., at 10 a.m.
In all, more than 3,000 people died and 6,000 were injured that day, at the hands of terrorists. The overwhelming majority were civilians — people just like you and me — someone’s sister, brother, mom or dad, husband or wife, best friend or neighbor.
Worldwide, people stopped whatever they were doing and were glued to a television or a radio. Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941; the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963; and the Challenger explosion on Jan. 28, 1986; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks stand out as one of those moments when nearly everyone alive at the time remembers where they were, who they were with and how they heard the news.
Today’s question, however, should not be limited to “Where were we then?” The more important question at this time is “Where are we now — 10 years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil?”
Thanks to the courage of many service men and women — much like the bravery shown by firefighters, police officers and all of the fallen who gave their lives to help others Sept. 11, 2001 — al-Qaida commander Osama bin Laden no longer threatens the United States. The May 2 commando raid that killed bin Laden, in fact, may have even prevented another attack planned for this 10th anniversary as well as years of uncertainty to come.
Yes, a lot of things are different than they were 10 years ago. Airline passengers must sacrifice convenience for safety. Security check-points even greet us now at sports stadiums.
But, the fact is that much is still the same: The United States continues to be a world power. Our union still has 50 strong states. We still have three branches of government. We still have our young men and women scattered over the globe ensuring freedom and keeping peace. We still have men and women who bravely serve as law enforcement officers, keeping our communities safe. We still have men and women who courageously battle fires and rush into burning buildings to rescue others. We still have legal immigrants flocking here, at times risking their very lives, because they know America is still a place where dreams can come true.
Because of our public servants and our veterans, past and present, the strength of these United States is not something you can knock down with an airplane. Even though many lives were lost, theSept. 11 terrorists didn’t make the United States of America weaker. They made us stronger and showed millions why we remain the envy of all those worldwide who seek freedom.
That’s why many grassroots efforts to commemorate those killed on Sept. 11 have sprouted across the country. One of Indiana’s own, firefighter and paramedic Greg Hess, began Project 9/11 in 2010 to construct an Indianapolis memorial. When completed, this tribute will stand tall in the heart of our state. Two 22-foot steel beams from Ground Zero will rest at 421 W. Ohio St., with an American Bald Eagle adorning one, looking toward New York.
I encourage Hoosiers to visit www.Project911Indianapolis.org to learn more about this Indiana effort. Supporting the memorial is one way to say we remember — and that we’ll never forget.
God bless America.