What can be said to describe the events that unfolded on this day now 18 year ago.
I remember being summoned to the breakroom in our office building to huddle around what couldn’t have been more than a 13-inch TV screen to see one of the twin towers on fire.
We were all wondering how a modern airplane could fly into a skyscraper as was being reported.
Some in the room actually remembered having read sometime in their past that a B-25 bomber had flown into the Empire State Building in 1945 during a heavy fog.
But it was clear skies in New York this morning.
Then suddenly right there on the screen, a second plane was caught on camera in real time flying into the second tower.
We all knew somehow what that meant.
And by this time we were all calling family members and other loved ones to share the horror that we were witnessing that morning.
Our world had changed at that very moment even though none of us had realized it yet.
Nothing quite like this had happened to our country since Dec. 7, 1941, when our nation was attacked with similar surprise at Pearl Harbor, and almost 60 years had passed since then.
This was one of those days where we all remember where we were.
The only thing similar in my lifetime was the memory of hearing over the intercom at Crain Junior High that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
This was back in 1963 when I was 13 years old.
Then the news of the Pentagon crash and the downing of the last hijacked plane in a field in Pennsylvania finally ended the carnage of that terrifying day.
I think all of us in that break room had a sick feeling in the pits of our stomach. Waves of sorrow and tears washed back and forth with waves of anger and disbelief.
When I now look back on that day, I realize that the true story that day, the one that we should all remember and take pride in was unfolding right there in front of our eyes in that tiny screen, and yet we could not see it at the time.
We would learn that story in the days, weeks and years to follow.
What we couldn't see in front of our eyes that day were the hundreds of miracles and acts of selfless heroism taking place in those towers and, yes, even on those planes.
Our primary defenders and heroes that day were not members of our armed services as was the case in 1941. They were our first responders, our firefighters, various civilian law enforcement officers, EMS personnel, dispatchers – people just like the first responders here with us this morning.
It was first responders who got us through that terrible day.
When I look at each and every one of you in uniform this morning, I don't know how I or the citizens of this community can thank you enough for what you do on a daily basis.
You are the ones who bring order to our lives and to our society.
You see us at our best and at our worst, but you are always there when needed.
It takes an extraordinarily dedicated person to run to the disaster, to climb the stairs of one of those twin towers when everyone else was fleeing for their lives, to make a call to a domestic disturbance, to provide comfort to those who have caught in the depths of sorrow, to look someone in the eyes and tell them everything will be alright, knowing full well they are on death’s door.
It is a mystery to me how all of you can summon such courage coupled with such compassion to do these things.
And you do it with the knowledge that it may cost you your very own lives.
All I can say is thank God for each and everyone of you and your families that accept the risk of what you do for all of us on a daily basis.
There is one last thought that I would like to leave with you today. It’s that we remember 9/11.
We Americans have always had a knack for finding the silver lining in all the adversity and tragedy we sometimes have to endure as a nation.
As we leave this ceremony today, let’s try to remember the days and weeks shortly after the shock of 9/11 when our country briefly came together as one to truly comfort one another and renew our historic resolve that has always resulted in our nation surviving the times that ordinarily would bring a lesser people to their knees in defeat in despair.
Let us all pray today that the atmosphere prevalent in our country, that we can somehow recapture those brief days 18 years ago and reach out to one another again and be the great nation that we are.
Thank you and God bless each and everyone of you.