September 11th – 16 Years Later Not Forgotten

          If you’re old enough to remember September 11th 2001 you probably remember where you were and what you were doing on or about 9:03 AM. 

          The first plane of these terrorist attacks, American Airlines Flight 11, flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 AM.  I was sitting in a high school classroom that Tuesday morning and news spread quickly, before 9:00 AM we had the TV on in the classroom, watching the aftermath.

          It was terrible.  Sitting there watching the TV I was thinking to myself, how could this happen?  How could someone accidently fly a plane into a tower?

          At the time I was thinking this was an accident, a terrible accident.  Maybe the controls on the plane had malfunctioned and the pilots couldn’t steer away?  Maybe something had happened with the pressurization of the plane and the pilots had lost consciousness?

          As I thought these things I watched on live TV as a second plane flew into the South Tower at 9:03 AM.

          My stomach churned and my heart sunk as the realization came over me, and everyone else:  This wasn’t an accident.

          Several of my classmates that day or in the following days signed up to be in the Armed Services as a direct result of those attacks.  Thank you for your service to our country, you are appreciated.  Thank you for your sacrifice, your willingness to serve. 

          Today I think of Oliver Brown, a young man a year behind me in high school, who signed up for the National Guard.  I played basketball with Oliver, he could drain the threes and was a great teammate. 

          After high school he was deployed to Iraq and on September 28th 2005, Oliver was killed in action while defending his country, he was 19.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice and he will not be forgotten.  Army Pfc. Oliver Brown was not the only person killed that day in the same attack.  Staff Sgt. George A. Pugliese, Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Arnold, Sgt. Eric W. Slebodnik, and Spc. Lee A. Wiegand were also killed in the attack.  I didn’t know any of them, but nonetheless I am thankful for them and want to honor their service, dedication, and sacrifice to this country on this day.

          Thank you Oliver, George, Daniel, Eric, and Lee.  Thank you to 6,840 who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  You are not forgotten.  A special thanks to The Washington Post’s Faces of the Fallen website.  You can see pictures of all 6,840 who gave their lives here –

          Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you for your willingness to serve.  Thank you.  You are not forgotten.

          I am thirty-two years old, those terrorist attacks happened sixteen years ago, meaning I have lived about half my life prior to these attacks, and about half my life since.  Sixteen years and yet that day, that moment, is still so vivid.

          I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of those towers with billows of smoke pouring from them.  But I hope I never forget the images of people who were running towards those towers.  First responders, police, firemen, ordinary people, running not away from those towers, but towards them, trying to help others at the risk of their own lives.

          On that day we saw the worst of human actions, the cowardly taking of innocent life.  But we also saw the best of human actions, those sacrificing themselves so that others may live. 

          Soon after the South Tower was hit that September morning a young man appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in the midst of the chaos, wearing a red bandana over his nose and mouth.  Quickly taking charge, he guided the dazed and wounded survivors to an open stairwell, which was shrouded in smoke and debris.  One of the survivors was unable to make it down the stairs on her own, so the man carried her on his back, down fifteen floors of stairs to safety before going back up to the inferno above.  The man in the red bandana was Welles Crowther, a twenty-four year old volunteer firefighter and equites trader who was setting off on another rescue mission when the tower collapsed and he was killed.  When Welles’ mother heard of the actions of her son she spoke of her pride in his “sense of duty to help others.”[i]

          Thank you Welles, you and the other first responders will not be forgotten.  You, those who first responded, are real heroes and are an inspiration.  Thank you.

          John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

          On that day sixteen years ago we saw the darkness of humanity, but we also saw the greatness of humanity – the willingness of people to lay down their own life for the sake of others.  And that light shining in the darkness will not be forgotten.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I will not forget.  We will not forget.

          Love is greater than hate.

          Fear and terror will not win.

          We will never forget.


“Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.’  This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our 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.  Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.”

          – President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

[i] Dupré, Ben. 50 Big Ideas You Really Need to Know. Quercus, 2009.  Pg. 16

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