We Will Never Forget
I’ll never forget the elevator doors opening the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and my colleague greeting me with “Have you seen the news? I think America is under attack.” Stunned, I turned the corner to my 4th-floor office, with so many windows looking out across our rural American town, and wondered how in the world could that be true, and why? We are the “great beacon of hope” as President Reagan once said. We help all of the other countries. How could they even get close to our borders? As others trickled in to work, we all found ourselves in the conference room with the news turned on the big screen. In stunned silence, we watched the events unfold on live television.
It’s a day that I will never forget. It’s a day that I’ve never been so thankful for my rural way of life. I went to work every day with colleagues that were like family to me, and I knew they also felt and understood the gravity of what was happening. It was comforting to know that my community, situated in the heart of America, remained secure. I also had always felt safe, confident in the bravery and immense sacrifice of our great men and women who wear the uniform. The events we watched on television made me realize how quickly that can all change.
We will soon mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I have to remind myself there are people alive today who were not yet born on that day. My children were born, but my grandson, Kayden, only knows the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from history books at school and the trip that he and I took to New York City a few years ago. We made sure to go to the site, and we talked about our freedom as Americans and how quickly that can erode if we get too comfortable. We also agreed we must never forget those who were lost: 2,977 souls between the four plane crashes and the resulting destruction. More than 400 firefighters and police officers were killed in the line of duty. Their families can never be repaid for their loss. Those great men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice.
As devastating as 9/11 was, the long-term impact is still felt by all Americans. Our nation has spent the past two decades at war, avenging a despicable act and trying to prevent it from happening again. An entire generation of America’s young men and women have stepped forward to carry the burden. Nearly 7,000 of our young warriors have been killed and another 50,000 injured fighting the global war on terror. Five of the servicemen and women killed in the Kabul airport bombing in August were just 20 years old themselves, and the oldest was only 11 when the 9/11 attacks happened. It’s remarkable to think that many of the warriors defending our nation don’t even remember Sept. 11, 2001. Today’s fire and police recruits may not have vivid memories of that day, but they honor their fallen brothers and sisters with their service.
As I think back on 9/11, I recall how we came together as a nation. America was united, and the world joined with us in our sorrow. Politics has eroded some of that unity, but the nation’s spirit of defiance remains. We are still incredibly proud to be Americans and to defend our way of life. If the terrorists thought they were going to discourage us or weaken our resolve, they failed. That’s because we most certainly are the “great beacon of hope.” That is why we have had such a crisis on our borders for years – many literally put their lives on the line to try to get in, and enjoy the freedoms that we have – freedom of religion, freedom to vote, freedom to speak as we choose, to name a few. We unapologetically pray for each other, and we pray for our nation. That is what it means to be an American.
This coming Saturday is going to be a tough day. To turn on the television will mean reliving the horror of 9/11. To not remember is to dishonor the innocent victims and all those who sacrificed themselves to save others. America made a promise in the aftermath of the attacks and I intend to keep it: “Never forget!”
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.