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9/11: We Must Never Forget

Twenty years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans had their eyes opened to the fact that our homeland, protected on both sides by an ocean, no longer was spared from extremists. That day, we watched in horror as two planes brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City, another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crashed into a field in nearby Shanksville, Pa. That plane likely was headed for the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

For many of us, the events of that day will never be forgotten. But today’s college-aged students never knew a world in which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center defined the New York City skyline — or one in which the United States did not have troops trying to keep us safe by serving in Afghanistan. They never heard speeches from presidents who did not mention the Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS.

Most of them also are too young to remember, in those years after terrorists altered our entire way of life, how Americans came together in a vow to stand united and “Never forget.” They don’t know the horror of learning nearly 3,000 people were killed on American soil because violent extremists used their religion and political ideology to justify an attack on everything for which we stood.

They don’t know what it felt like to watch a nation come together and declare that what we stood for was worth protecting — worth fighting for; and that we made that declaration as one people. We had each other’s back. If we saw something, we said something. If our military men and women were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, we supported them.

So today, as we look two decades into the past to one of the most terrifying moments in American history, we must, indeed, never forget. We must never forget what it is about this nation that so infuriated those who sought to destroy us. We must never forget those who died — nearly 3,000 lives whose absence must spur us to be better, to remain a beacon of freedom for the world. And we must never forget the nearly 4,600 U.S. servicemembers killed in the Iraq war and nearly 2,500 killed in Afghanistan. Their loss, too, must inspire us to ensure they did not die in vain.

Now, we look to the New York City skyline and see the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. We face the end of the war in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from a country that returned to Taliban control more quickly than many imagined possible. And we live in a nation where disagreement and a virus have given some politicians a window to convince us we are divided and vulnerable — that there are two Americas.

No. We are, still, the United States of America. And today we are united once again by the vow that while we may be different, we are indivisible, that we are one nation, under God.

That, we must never forget.

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