It was 11 years ago today that Islamic terrorists humbled our great nation.
Hijacking four U.S. passenger jets, the terrorists from a well-funded group known as al-Qaida crashed two into the World Trade Center towers. Within hours, the towers crumbled to the ground. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department. The fourth was meant for the U.S. Capitol Building, home of Congress, but it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., after several brave passengers tried to retake it.
In total, nearly 3,000 people were killed.
The Sept. 11 attacks shattered America’s sense of security and changed the course of world events.
But in the attacks’ immediate aftermath, Americans united.
We huddled around televisions, computers and telephones. We cried together, we prayed together, we joined spontaneous vigils. We donated time and money.
Americans united to help the families of those killed.
We united to show our resolve to stop al-Qaida, to track down those who plotted these horrible attacks and bring them to justice. Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden, finally was brought to justice last year when brave U.S. Navy SEALs stormed his compound in Afghanistan and shot him to death.
The attacks prompted two U.S.-led wars – in Afghanistan and Iraq – claiming the lives of more than 6,500 U.S. soldiers and costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars. Five people from DeKalb County have died overseas since the start of hostilities:
• Army 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas (died Nov. 2, 2003, in Iraq).
• Army Pvt. Christopher Alcozer (died Nov. 19, 2005, in Iraq).
• Army Spc. Ashley Sietsema (died Nov. 12, 2007, in Kuwait).
• Army Pfc. Matthew Martinek (died Sept. 11, 2009, in Afghanistan).
• U.S. Embassy worker Jay Henigan (died Sept. 28, 2011, in Afghanistan).
We thank them and honor them for their bravery and sacrifice.
Now, exactly 11 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, we are a country deeply divided.
President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, likely will take a break from the vitriolic rhetoric of their campaigns and commemorate the day, as they should.
But tomorrow, the rhetoric surely will return.
We urge the candidates, and all Americans, when commemorating the day’s events to remember the unity we shared back in 2001. Remember how we stood together as Americans, not as partisans.
We can disagree on the important issues of the day. We must debate what’s best for the future of our country. But we can do so and still be respectful of each other.
That’s the best way we can honor those who died.