Sept. 11, 2001, dawned as a beautiful day with the kind of clear sky aviators describe as “severe clear.” Beginning at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time that blue sky would darken as the first plumes of smoke began rising from what would become the worst terrorist incident in U.S. history.
When the two iconic towers of the World Trade Center fell that morning, over 2,600 people from 90 countries perished. The Council of State Governments office, located in a nearby World Trade Center building, would also be destroyed. Thankfully, no CSG employees perished or were physically injured in the attacks. The New York City offices of The Council of State Governments would be relocated many times in the years following the attacks, but our resolve to stay in the financial district of New York City remained steadfast.
Twenty years hence, The Council of State Governments remembers that dark day. We remember the lives lost in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the 40 brave passengers and crew members who perished aboard United Flight 93 when it was brought down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
We also remember the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human event. And we commemorate the spirit of all those who came together across the globe in the wake of the attacks to serve others.
We honor the memory of the 344 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers and other helpers who gave the last full measure of devotion on that day. We remember the more than 3,000 children who lost a parent in the attacks. We remember the 55 members of the armed services who were killed at the Pentagon that day. We reflect on the incredible bravery of the passengers of Flight 93 who, surely knowing their lives would be lost, chose to overtake the hijackers and, in doing so, likely prevented their plane from being flown into the seat of our nation’s government, the United States Capitol. In all, nearly 3,000 people would die as the innocent victims of this unspeakable violence.
On 9/11 many sacrificed, and many served and many were called to serve. From the ashes of the attacks, the stories of countless every day Americans performing extraordinary acts of service emerged. The nation came together, united in compassion and resolve. It is this part of the legacy of 9/11 that continues to call all of us to honor our obligations as citizens and to give selflessly of ourselves in service to others.
The CSG New York office is now located just a block from Ground Zero. I have taken the short walk to the National September 11 Memorial many times during my visits to our office. Each time, I reflect on the magnitude of loss and think of all those who continue to face health challenges because of the events of that day.
Our states and nation face considerable challenges. On this twentieth anniversary commemoration of the attacks of 9/11, we, as citizens, can honor the victims of 9/11 and further their legacy by rededicating ourselves to serve the common good, by condemning hate in all its forms, by reaching out to our neighbors in need, by honoring those who serve in harm’s way in our stead and by comforting those who have suffered loss. We have the power to confront those who wish our nation harm by doing all in our power to preserve, protect and defend democracy and the rule of law.
Two decades later, the enormity of the events of 9/11 still defy comprehension, but this much is clear, in the wake of one of the most horrific events in our nation’s history, countless, vivid examples of the best of America emerged. I recall seeing the words, “United We Stand,” proudly displayed throughout the U.S. in the weeks and months following the attacks. As we remember 9/11, let us now each pledge to do our share of the hard work necessary to unify our country, knowing that when Americans come together as one nation, nothing can stop us.
May God bless the memory of those who perished because of the events of 9/11 and may God bless The United States of America.