Twenty years have gone since the September 11th terrorist attack. It is, without a doubt, a watershed moment. But no amount of time will ever be able to erase my recollections of that day.
The most vivid memory I have of 9/11
The most vivid memory I have of 9/11 is stepping off the helicopter in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and being greeted by the deafening quiet. The fields were searched by emergency personnel. Ambulances were on standby. Rescuers were looking for someone to save.
However, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 – a group of 40 heroes – were the first on the scene.
They’d already started running toward the danger. They had already begun the fight. And they were already safe in God’s arms.
Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial
Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial has established a Heroes Award in their honor, ensuring that their narrative is never forgotten. Is there anything more appropriate?
We lost approximately 3,000 people from over 80 countries above a Pennsylvania field, the Pentagon’s stone, and the once-towering World Trade Center. We lost them far too young and inexplicably.
Despite the agony and anguish that weighed heavily on our shoulders, we banded together.
Do you recall? Some of you brought food to the firefighters on foil-covered plates. Others held candlelight vigils in major and little cities. Flags were no longer available in stores. Schools and communities came together to raise funds for bereaved families. Members of Congress sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.
We survived on a continuous diet of love, generosity, and compassion during our country’s darkest hour. Those words are unlikely to appear in any national security strategy. But, believe me when I say that those notions are just as important to our national resilience as any other aspect of national defense.
I understand that the country is currently fractured. Furthermore, the daily news headlines appear to be too much to handle. Some of you have expressed concern that the difficulties we confront are overwhelming and that you are unsure of our capacity to meet them.
But remember this: For the previous 20 years, for the past 245 years, our shared values, our shared obligation to one another, and the country we all love have been the hallmark of the American tale.
Individuals from all walks of life
Doctors, nurses, professors, grocery clerks, truck drivers, and individuals from all walks of life have worked together over the last 20 months to keep our economy going, our students learning, and all of us healthy and safe.
We are a country of over 333 million people of many races, cultures, faiths, and political opinions. But, do you recall? We’re also a Rosie the Riveter nation. Of charity telethons and Live Aid concerts, as well as bake sales and clothes drive throughout the neighborhood. We’re the hearts and wallets that open every day for those who are most vulnerable — our elderly neighbors, the hungry, the homeless, and hurricane and earthquake victims.
We understand that our humanity toward one another is what saves us. We know this – not because we’ve always been nice to each other or because we’ve always been a united country.
We know that because we’ve deviated from that humanity, empathy, and oneness at times. We’ve learned that America isn’t perfect as a result of our faults, so we try harder and strive to be a more perfect union.
Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain, who passed away recently, was a long-time friend of mine. In his goodbye address, he stated, “Do not despair of our current difficulties, but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable.”
John did not take anything for granted. He battled for the greater good every day of his life. For the sake of the country he adored. For the cause, he most believed in selfless service.
I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunities I’ve been given to serve my nation. I’ve seen America on its darkest and greatest days as a soldier and as a secretary. I’ve seen people give everything they had. And it’s something I’ll never forget.