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It’s Time for America To Come Together Again

It was my solemn honor to speak at a special ceremony at the Statehouse to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country.

The 9-11 presentation at the Ohio Statehouse is always a beautiful and moving tribute. Volunteers create a display on the west lawn, placing 2,977 American flags — each flag representing a person who perished in the attacks that day.

When seen from above, the design depicts the World Trade Center towers, with a space in the shape of the Pentagon and an open strip representing the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Governor Taft and his staff put the first display together in 2002 — and it has become Ohio’s poignant symbol of grief, gratitude, and unity.

And, this year’s installation is especially significant as it marks 20 years since the tragic day when al-Qaida terrorists killed 2,977 people, including many with ties to Ohio, in coordinated attacks meant to promote fear and weaken the United States.

This display is also particularly meaningful now because of the sad and disturbing events that have transpired recently in Afghanistan, where we went to war less than a month after 9/11 to pursue al-Qaida and its leaders.

The evacuation from Afghanistan last month left 13 U.S. service members dead, including 22-year-old Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak of Berlin Heights, Ohio, who was just a toddler on 9/11.

This young man faced incredible risk to help fellow Americans and our allies get out of Afghanistan.

Now, his friends and family, including 12 brothers and sisters, are left to mourn.

He was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy and planned to make it a career.

He wanted to help people.

We will be forever grateful to the U.S. military men and women who served and sacrificed in Afghanistan through the years.

They provided us protection in a way that can never fully be measured.

We pray for all our military members who are fulfilling vital missions throughout the world.

Sadly, terrorists continue to look for, and find, ways to hurt us and everything we stand for.

But, just as they did two decades ago, the terrorists underestimate us.

They fail to understand that despite the differences that exist among us, the disagreements we may have, Americans coalesce.

We come together in times of crisis.

As President George W. Bush said only hours after the attacks of 9/11, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

After all that happened that terrible day in 2001, Ohioans and all Americans began to mourn, and they began to demonstrate their patriotism.

Throughout Ohio, American flags waved from front porches and were taped to windows and tied to car antennas. Others pinned flags to their lapels or wore them on T-shirts. Ohioans attended prayer vigils and participated in moments of silence.

Among those who died at the World Trade Center that day were police officers and firefighters who responded to the Twin Towers to save lives only to be killed when the buildings collapsed. Their sacrifice touched rescue workers everywhere. And in the weeks and months afterward, Ohio first responders were among those who pitched in every way they could to make a difference for their country.

For those who lost a loved one during Sept. 11, or as a result of the cleanup of Ground Zero, or in the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the recent evacuation, the sadness and loss will surely follow them forever.

We owe it to them to pause and remember. To show our love for our country. And to always honor those lost.

Mike DeWine is the governor of Ohio.

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