For The Tribune-Democrat
Has it really been 10 years? It seems like only yesterday.
And then there are times it seems like it was centuries ago – in another lifetime.
And for those who were directly affected by the horrific events of 9/11, which took the lives of 3,000 innocent men, women and children, it was another lifetime ago.
We think of how innocent and safe our lives felt back then, on that deceptively beautiful sunny Sept. 11. And then, in the space of two chaotic hours, the lives of all Americans changed forever. We all felt the same emotions: Shock, disbelief, horror, sadness, grief, anger, rage.
Every generation has its defining event, when they remember where they were when they heard the news: The attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and now 9/11.
This was the first event covered by the media in such horrific detail: People jumped to their deaths from the towers, first responder fatalities, the collapse of both towers, and the ensuing chaos and confusion.
The horror was not limited to New York City. Another hijacked plane hit the Pentagon, taking even more innocent lives.
And then came the report of a final plane crash, not hitting any major building but mysteriously crashing into an empty field in nearby Shanksville.
When the public saw coverage of United Airlines Flight 93, I told my then-girlfriend, Nancy, that the passengers must have staged a revolt to prevent the plane from hitting a major target. Later the world found out that they courageously did.
I called home to ask Dad if my brother, Tom, who worked in that area, had checked in, and Dad said Tom was OK.
Later, I found out from Tom that a co-worker had called to tell him he had seen a low-flying plane, with wings that almost seemed to be flapping, fly over him. He was one of the last to see Flight 93 airborne.
There are many such stories surrounding the three crash sites during that dark September day.
As we come to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, what lessons do we take away?
The most important lesson is that we remain ever vigilant against the terrorists. They will not give up. People who think that we can reach an “understanding” with them by holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” are either fools or idiots, or both.
Terrorists are committed to killing Americans, period. They will not give up, despite the fact that we have them on the run.
Three thousand innocent men, women and children are no longer walking the earth because of the terrorists. The lives of thousands more have been changed forever because they lost a mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, relative or friend because of these terrorists.
Additional innocent lives are lost each year with first responders dying after being exposed to toxic elements in their efforts that day.
One gleam of hope we can take from 9/11 was the valor of those courageous citizens on Flight 93 who took control of their destiny, saving the lives of numerous people on the ground, not to mention the Capitol or White House, the apparent target of the fourth hijacked plane.
Their heroism in sacrificing their lives has made that tranquil field in Shanksville truly hallowed ground.
Let us never forget them.
Bill Eggert is a Johnstown native. You can read his blog at http://thebillvilleblog.wordpress.com.
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