This morning marks the eighteenth anniversary of horrific attacks on the United States, which resulted in thousands of deaths and even more injured. For many of us who were alive at the time, we remember exactly where we were as the news broke and we tried to fully grasp what was happening.
I was attending the Law Enforcement Academy near Hutchinson and recall several of my fellow student officers, who were also members of the National Guard, scurrying to find out if they needed to report for duty while also trying to figure out if they would soon be leaving their families and communities. Others were getting reports from their hometowns of jet airliners potentially landing at local airports, which had runways sufficient for landing the large aircraft but unsuitable for them to take off again when air travel resumed.
The world gathered around televisions and watched as heroes rushed into burning buildings in hopes of rescuing strangers who had become trapped inside. Some were successful while others never emerged; becoming trapped themselves before the buildings eventually collapsed on top of them.
Almost immediately, courageous men and women swarmed recruiting stations hell bent on delivering justice to those responsible for killing innocent people on American soil.
Over time I’ve been blessed to meet and speak with people directly impacted by the September 11th attacks. One man was part of Mayor Giuliani’s communications team that morning; another lost friends and family who were working at the World Trade Center and many have or are still serving in our Armed Forces. It’s interesting yet disheartening to hear the stories of how that day changed their lives forever.
Despite the darkness and tragedy of that day, remembering the courage from the passengers aboard United 93, the bravery of first responders and citizens who were helping complete strangers and the fortitude of our military, brings a sense of pride to all of us, as can the memory of how united nearly everyone was. Transcending all walks of life, socio-economic status, race, political parties or ideologies, being united as Americans came before anything else.
The slogan ‘Never Forget’ is often used and that’s why I think it’s important we all, whether we lived through that day or learned about its significance later, to take a minute and remember, not only those who were killed, but also the Law Enforcement, Firefighters, Medics, Port Authority, courageous citizens and our United States Military for their acts of bravery and selflessness on that day and in the days which followed.
Maybe while we are thinking about all those who were lost and all those who stepped up on behalf of our nation, we can focus our efforts and attitudes towards rebuffing those who spend their time and energy in an effort to divide our communities and instead recapture that amazing sense of patriotism and unity.
Sheriff David Groves