President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” after the surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Most Americans are too young to remember that early Sunday morning raid 71 years ago that killed 2,225 servicemen and wounded 1,143 more, sank or damaged all eight American battleships in the harbor and thrust our country into the fray of World War II.
While the attack on Pearl Harbor may be a distant memory conveyed through old black and white news footage, most Americans are young enough to remember the horror wreaked by 15 terrorists armed with box cutters who hijacked three commercial jetliners full of civilians and flew them into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
Other terrorists, who apparently intended to make the U.S. Capitol building their target, also hijacked a fourth plane, but the passengers confronted them and all 44 souls were lost and four hijackers killed when the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa. Just before the crash, passenger Todd Beamer asked several passengers who sought to regain control of the jet liner, “Are you guys ready? OK. Let’s roll.”
While Americans will never forget the nearly 3,000 innocent civilians and military personnel who died in the attacks, Sept. 11 has become a solemn day for the first responders — the policemen and firemen — who died when the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City collapsed around them as they tried to render aid to those trapped in the burning buildings.
According to New York Magazine, 343 firefighters and paramedics lost their lives that day, along with 23 New York City police officers and 37 New York Port Authority police officers.
The magazine reports 20 percent of Americans know someone who was injured or killed during the attacks. The New York City Fire Department lost 98 vehicles that day and the fired burned for 99 days. At least one firefighter from 75 different firehouses from across New York City died Sept. 11.
We join in honoring those brave souls who gave their lives to protect others. And, we recognize our local first responders who also put themselves at risk with every call. Today, we remember the sacrifice of those first responders and acknowledge how our own first responders are willing to risk everything for people they don’t even know.
We ask each of you to pause for a moment today and remember the terrible loss our country suffered 12 years ago and how a group of heroes rushed into burning buildings to help rescue those trapped by the flames only to have those building fall all around them.
May God bless their families and may they rest in peace. We shall never forget their courage, commitment and sacrifice on that awful, awful day.