Terri Branham Clark
As we take time this week to honor the memory of those we lost on 9/11, I can’t help but think of historic events over the decades when many in the country will never forget what they were doing upon hearing the news. Some of those moments were positive milestones such as the end of fighting during World War II and the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Others, however, were tragedies like Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy and for this generation, 18 years ago this week, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on our nation. For those old enough to remember that somber day, it seems hard to believe that a generation has grown to adulthood since that clear and cool morning when the planes crashed.
Though New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were affected most, no state was untouched. In Kentucky, one of the victims on the flight that struck the World Trade Center’s south tower had lived in Louisville during his youth. A Rowan County native was among the Pentagon’s losses, and a victim in the plane that struck that building was the son-in-law of a woman working for the General Assembly at the time.
Kentucky also has a connection to another memory that arose from that day - the flag flown in the famous photo of firefighters raising it at Ground Zero was originally bought from a salesman based in Barren County. The flag, and the boat from which it was taken were previously owned by a developer who kept the boat on Lake Cumberland before selling it in the late 1990s.
It turns out that the area around the site of the World Trade Center is also full of history. George Washington was sworn into his first term as President and our Bill of Rights were adopted just about 200 yards away from Ground Zero. A short walk now links one of our country’s most enduring victories and one of our darkest tragedies.
As a date, September 11 is special in history as well. It is the anniversary of the last battle of the Revolutionary War – the siege of Fort Henry in 1782 – and ironically, it is also the anniversary of the start of construction of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The day will understandably never be thought of the same after what happened in 2001, but it did not change who we are and the ideals we represent. The attacks on our homeland brought out the best in who we are as a nation. We saw selfless acts of emergency workers who willingly risked their own lives to help others and an endless outpouring of support from across the country in the days that followed.
Like many, I will never forget where I was when I heard the news and watched it unfold on television. I had taken my three daughters - then kindergarten, first and eighth grade - to school and come back home to care for my toddler son. I was feeding him breakfast with Good Morning America on the television when reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center first aired. That day is still as vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday. I can remember worrying about possible attacks on our industrial plants, debated if I should get the girls out of school and watched in horror as the buildings fell. Eighteen years have passed but seems like such a short time ago.
As we come together this week to recall that tragic morning, and remember those whose lives were lost that day, I hope that we also take a moment to remember how we stood united as a nation in sorrow and resolve. Our strength as a nation has not wavered in the 18 years since that fateful morning, but sadly our love and respect of each other sometimes have. May we all spend Wednesday recalling that what unites us truly is greater than what divides us and let’s honor the memory of our 9/11 Heroes by again extending our hands to help one another rather than knocking each other down. That, perhaps, will be the most fitting tribute of all.