By Congressman Tom Latham
It was a beautiful clear Tuesday morning. I awoke that day already in a somber mood — long before I had heard the first news reports of that fateful day. A memorial service was to be held that morning for the former Chaplin of the House of Representatives, and my good friend, Reverend James Ford. Pastor Ford served faithfully for many years as a trusted spiritual guide to Members of Congress while they were away from home serving their constituents in Washington.
As I began to make my way towards the door for the trip to the Capitol, I heard those shuddering words broadcast on the television in the other room: “We have reports that a small aircraft has hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan.” I turned to watch the beginning of the coverage of what would unfold to be events so horrific, so painful, and so indescribable that we could not even give it a name. We – for lack of words to describe the events of that day – refer to them with just the numbers “nine-eleven”.
Before the reports of an explosion at the Pentagon were broadcast, my wife Kathy and I had felt a rumbling in our living room that instinctively told us something was wrong. The plain, yet commanding, five-sided building located only a mile or so from where we were watching the events unfold on television, had just been struck. I knew from that moment, Pastor Ford’s family was no longer going to be the only one needing my prayers.
On that day, September 11, 2001, our great nation suffered previously unimaginable horrific acts against our nation’s citizens and our democracy in an attempt to shake our foundation of freedom. Even ten years later we can feel the deep emotion evoked from the countless heartbreaking stories of loss; children, wives, husbands, grandparents, friends, neighbors gone in an instant. I have always felt that regardless of our relation to the victims, as a nation we all feel the grief very deeply for every person lost in these senseless acts.
In the hours following the attacks, first responders rushed into the fiery wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and to a scarred field in rural Pennsylvania, scouring the rubble for survivors. If 9/11 taught us one lesson, it’s that we live in a nation of every-day heroes who rise from ordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things.
In the weeks, months and years following the attacks we’ve watched thousands of brave men and women – our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, family members and neighbors – volunteer to put their lives on hold to defend our country and the cause of freedom in our armed forces.
And we’ve been inspired by the families who suffered the ultimate sacrifice on September 11th or in the defense of freedom since that day as they all reach for the future while keeping alive the memories of the loved ones they lost.
The events of September 11, 2001, are forever seared into our country’s collective memory, and, in countless ways, we’re still feeling the effects. The best among us rose to the challenge in the moments after the first plane hit, and America has been fighting to meet the challenge every day in the ten years since.
Ten years following that horrific day in World history America is still healing. And, truth be told, we should never fully lose the scar of that day to remind us of the sacrifices of so many innocents who were lost in an attack on what we firmly stand for – Freedom.
On this 10th anniversary, let us continue to remember and pray for the innocent victims, the heroes and their loved ones. Take the time to thank the men and women in our lives who stay vigilant, who keep our communities safe and fight for our country here at home and on distant lands.
May we never forget that there is no tragedy that we cannot overcome in the United States of America. Because, as a nation of free people, we will continue to join together and recover from this tragedy. From the ashes of this tragedy we will continue rise up and prevail – because in America – every morning has the potential for new and even better beginnings.
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