Two Years Later, September 11th Resonates PDF Print E-mail
Written by Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, R-MO   

Washington D.C  -  Two years ago, two towers fell.  A plane crashed into the Pentagon as another went down in a Pennsylvania field.  Three thousand Americans perished.  Our nation was crippled with grief, but not incapacitated by it.

The facts are all too familiar, but in the wake of the deadliest terrorist attacks on America, life here has profoundly changed.  The tragedies of September 11th occurred hundreds of miles away, but the shock waves have been felt at home in Missouri ever since.

September 11th is an emotional bookmark in each of our memories.  Younger Americans now know why their parents all remember where they first learned of the Kennedy assassination.  And just as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1941 resonates for our Greatest Generation, September 11th reminds all of us that we live in a dangerous world.  We are reminded that the freedom we cherish has convicted enemies.

In Missouri, many of us know friends or family members directly affected by the terrorist attacks.  Even more of us know members of our armed services who have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

This September 11th will be a somber remembrance of the lives lost two years ago.  We will look back in time, and within to our hearts, to recall where we were, how we felt, and what we did on that fateful day.  We will remember frantic phone calls, continuous news reports, and prayerful moments.

Journalists, artists, musicians, and architects have grappled with the best way to commemorate September 11th, and so far, no one has got it right.  The day is indescribable.  There is an inescapable sense of loss, despite the fact that no explanation can encompass everything taken from us on that day.

But two years after September 11th, we should also be looking toward our future.
Bear in mind the chain of events set into motion.  First, Missourians rose to the immediate challenges posed by the attacks by giving blood, sending supplies, volunteering, and making other charitable donations to help those in desperate need.  We grieved together as a nation.

In the weeks that followed, Homeland Security swiftly rose to the top of our federal, state, and local law enforcement priorities.  Over the past two years, the federal government has infused millions of dollars in Missouri to strengthen our security, minimize the threat of terrorism, and coordinate the efforts of police, fire, rescue, and emergency personnel at all levels of jurisdiction.

As a result, our airports and waterways are safer.  Our public health system has been reinforced.  Emergency response plans for potential terrorist attacks are in place where there were none before.  The men and women on our front lines are getting new and better federal support through expanded grant programs for first responders.  The federal funds enable law enforcement and firefighters to purchase new equipment and provide better training.  These efforts not only help us respond to the threat of terrorism; they also help keep our communities safer.

The word ‘hero’ was redefined by the events of September 11th.  Instead of drawing cartoon characters, our children’s pictures were of police officers and firefighters, because that’s who they want to emulate. At Halloween, trick-or-treaters chose the costumes of these same heroes – real people in our communities.

I visited many schools in the wake of September 11th.  I saw children making cards, collecting pennies to donate to the children of victims, and putting their desire to help before their inability to fully understand the gravity of the situation.

And though Homeland Security begins at home, there were significant actions to be taken in the world community.  Once again, America sent her sons and daughters to foreign shores.  First in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, America set out to attack terror at its very root, before the enemies of our freedoms became an even greater threat. 

It is important to note that terror is not just an American problem.  That is why leagues of nations, even Arab nations, joined us on both missions.  We have brought a glimpse of freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Free elections, human and civil rights, and the commitment to help Afghanis and Iraqis build secure, stable nations under benevolent rule.  From so much death and destruction, this is the small good which has emerged.
As President Bush said two years ago, “A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Four planes, three thousand dead, two towers, one nation – still united under God, mindful of the sacrifices of the innocent and defending the freedoms we hold dear – our American resolve is unshaken.


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