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Our opinion: A day the U.S. changed

Do you remember where you were exactly six months ago at 8:47 a.m.?

Probably not.

But if we ask where you were 20 years ago at 8:47 a.m., chances are you will remember the moment as if it were yesterday.

Sept. 11, 2001, was, without question, one of the most horrific in the history of the United States of America. At 8:47 a.m., the lives of all Americans changed when American Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. Fifteen minutes later, United Flight 175 hit the second tower. An hour later, American Flight 77 hit the Pentagon in Washington. And, in a heroic twist, passengers derailed an effort by hijackers to again strike the District of Columbia. United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The first airliner hitting the World Trade Center was a shock. The second airliner ramming the second World Trade Center tower was a guy punch to the entire country. We stopped dead in our collective tracks. Airplanes were grounded.

The stock market closed. Sports were canceled. Elections were delayed. People in search of answers poured into churches and held their children close.

We grieved — for Amy King of Celoron and all the rest who died that day, for those who lost loved ones and for the loss of our innocence. We told the stories of heroes who fought back on Flight 93 and who put the well-being of others ahead of their own by leading evacuations of the World Trade Center towers knowing full well they wouldn’t make it out before the towers fell. First responders from around the country made their way to New York City for exhaustive rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Tower site, some of whom have seen their health affected from the work.

Perhaps most importantly, we came together. Unity is almost a foreign concept in 2021, but remember back to the days immediately after 9/11. Even those who didn’t know anyone killed in the terrorist attacks felt their neighbors’ grief. Flags were flown. Candles were lit. Prayers rang out in a multitude of tongues. People gave blood, money and goods to help those affected by the attacks.

“My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of the union, and it is strong,” President George W. Bush said to a joint session of Congress 10 days after the attacks.

Just as we grieved and healed collectively, we moved on collectively. In small towns and big cities, we resumed the comforting rhythms of normal day to day living. And that’s why we can’t remember what we were doing on a random Saturday morning six months ago. We got on with living — but we’ve never truly moved on, either.

Viewing images or video from that horrific day 20 years ago makes our initial shock and sorrow all too real again. Today, as we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we collectively hold most dearl the memory of those who perished.

The passage of time has blunted the harshness of the pain we felt 20 years ago — but the pain is still there. We haven’t forgotten 9/11, and we never will.

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