This week we mark the 20th anniversary of the day that has come to be known by two numbers: 9/11. Many of us weren’t in New York or Washington on that terrible day, but it doesn’t matter. Through images broadcast here and around the world, we all shared in the experience, were touched by it, and for a time at least, we were all New Yorkers. We were all Americans.
This is a week of remembrance. We remember the 2974 lives that were lost 20 Septembers ago, and honor those civilians that perished at the Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. We remember the 343 uniformed firefighters that lost their lives that day. For first responders who were on the pile, 9/11 is a never-ending story.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,627 enrolled members of the World Trade Center Health Program have died in the years since the tragedy. A shocking 75% of FDNY firefighters who worked at Ground Zero on September 11 have acquired long-term illnesses. But in the darkest times there is always light. It is worth remembering that an awful day brought Americans together as they had not come together since World War II. In the end, it brought out the best in us, which hadn’t happened in a while. Some might say it hasn’t happened since.
This week, as we attend commemorative services or watch television retrospectives, let us not forget the spirit that shone through that day. Let us recapture the understanding that we are not red states or blue states. Let us remember – and never forget – that we are all Americans. That is the true legacy of 9/11, and the best way to honor those lost.