Learn and never forget
Nebraska State Senator
Fifteen years ago I came downstairs to that first cup of coffee and turned on the tiny television which sits on the pass-through between our office and our kitchen. Dottie and I are news junkies, so the television set is usually tuned to Fox News or CNN, and that morning was no different.
My feed salesman was to arrive about 8 to plan our rations for the fall and winter feeding protocol, so we planned to clean off the dining room table before he arrived.
In the midst of a commercial, the screen suddenly flashed to an image of the World Trade Center in New York. The announcers stated that a plane had hit the tower and there was discussion about what kind of error the pilot could have made to make this happen. With blue skies and no clouds, it was apparent to me that this was an intentional act, but why would someone do this?
I hollered to Dottie, telling her what had happened and she soon joined me in the kitchen. A few minutes later the second plane slammed into the south tower of the world trade center. Then, 45 minutes later we heard the first reports of the Pentagon assault and saw the images. Media announcers were as confused as we were, standing in our tiny kitchen.
Our feed salesman arrived, accompanied by a representative of the company. They had been driving and were not listening to the radio, so were uninformed about the events occurring in New York and Washington. All four of us stood in the kitchen for an extended time, watching the news. A feed plan was never discussed.
We watched as firefighters arrived and rushed up the stairs in the Twin Towers. We watched as individuals on the top floors began to jump to their deaths. We watched as people rushed from the building. We saw the Pentagon burning. We watched the President, looking dazed, report from Florida that the nation had experienced a terrorist attack. We watched as individuals fled the White House. We watched as the reporters told of a crash in Pennsylvania. We watched and we prayed.
And then we watched in horror as the south tower imploded and collapsed. A massive cloud of dust rushed away from the site. Thirty minutes later the scene repeated itself when the north tower came down.
That day is burned into my memory. It was the day the nation realized that we were not safe from terrorism, and the troubles in the world. The shining city on the hill had been badly bruised and our confidence was low—what would the next day bring? For several days we continued to watch as clean-up began, as bodies were retrieved, and as the nation mourned.
Many firefighters and police in New York lost their lives. Others were sickened by the debris which needed to be cleaned up and moved. They are heroes, as are the many young men and women who rushed to join the service to stand up for our country following the attack.
I salute them all on this fifteenth anniversary and invite you to put yourself back in that moment again. September 11 changed our nation forever. Our freedoms and securities have been tested, but our spirit is undamaged. Our nation still leads the world in humanitarian efforts and our military is light years ahead of others. We learned from the events of September 11. And we must continue to learn. Learn, and never forget!
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