For some, the images of crashing planes, crumbling skyscrapers and a burning field may exist only at the fringe of memory, clouded by the passing of time and the relentless pace of our lives.
Is Sept. 11, 2019, just another Wednesday – with a once-moving message now drowned out by political squabbles and selfish needs?
How will you honor this 18th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001?
Are we worthy of the sacrifices made by the passengers and crew of United Flight 93?
Those of us old enough to remember that day have been appointed by fate as the caretakers of a world-changing story.
Terrorists hijacked four jets, crashing two into the World Trade Center towers and a third into the Pentagon, killing 3,000 innocent people including hundreds of first-responders in New York.
The fourth hijacked aircraft came down in a Somerset County field, killing 40 passengers and crew along with four hijackers.
We were a nation shaken to the core, our innocence ripped apart by hatred and unimaginable violence.
We watched as the symbols of our economic might and military power burned.
But soon a different narrative emerged, as the deeds of those aboard United Flight 93 came to light.
The crew members and passengers had risen up and fought back against the terrorists.
Fully aware of what was happening elsewhere, and motivated by the desire to see their loved ones again, they rushed the cockpit.
Their refusal to become victims cost them their own lives when that airliner slammed to the ground in Somerset County.
But their courage saved many more as that plane failed to reach its believed target – the U.S. Capitol.
And there was much more to this remarkable story.
The people of our region rushed forward that morning in the hopes of finding survivors at the Shanksville crash site.
When they realized that there would be no one to rescue, they turned their attention to the families of those who had perished, embracing them in love and sympathy, comforting them in a time of unimaginable pain.
Our region supported the emergency responders during an intense crisis, then became the caretakers of hallowed ground – the permanent resting place of heroes.
A generation has grown up in the wake of 9/11, and we have instilled in our children an appreciation of the incredible responsibility brought by our proximity to the place where Flight 93 came down.
We have built walls and towers and rung bells in tribute.
We have welcomed presidents and vice presidents, governors and senators, performers and patriots, local guests and visitors from afar – here to pay tribute at a timeless altar of hope in a windy field.
The actions of the heroes of Flight 93 amaze, humble and inspire us still.
Their spirits live on, and guide us forward.
The 40 call us to come together – now, just as we did 18 years ago.
To face down our fears and overcome our differences.
To remember their sacrifices and retell the story so that future generations understand.
To gather on each anniversary, or pause for a few moments, to reflect and be uplifted.
To respond with selflessness and determination.
To work with others for a greater good, regardless of the challenges.
To be worthy of the sacrifices they made in the skies above Shanksville.