The days that followed were both heart wrenching, as bodies were pulled from the rubble, and heartwarming, as the country rallied together like nothing I've seen in my lifetime. People seemed to actually care about their fellow citizens. Most Americans seemed to actually care about America. We were united.
The reaction that day of our President, George W. Bush, made me prouder than ever to be an American citizen. He vowed to do everything in his power to hunt and kill the terrorists responsible for the horrors of 9/11/01, and he held true to his word. Until June of this year, no act of terrorism by Muslim extremists took place again on American soil.
Thanks to Project 2,996, I was given the privilege of participating in remembering several of those who died on September 11, 2001. Eight years ago, not only were the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon attacked, there were passengers on four different airliners that were also killed. (American Airlines Flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines Flights 93 and 175). Many of those who so bravely raced to the scene that day to rescue the injured also lost their lives. John Joseph Florio and Thomas Richard Kelly were two such heroes. Florio was an FDNY firefighter with Engine 214. He was 33 years old, a husband, and father of two. As I read his memorial page, tears came to my eyes. You see, for some, September 11, 2001 was just another ordinary day. Their lives were seemingly unaffected by this tragedy. For others, life went on, and we too easily forgot that these were real people who left behind real families, whose lives would never be the same. John Joseph Florio was a brave firefighter who ran into a burning building to save his fellow citizens, and never made it out.
Thomas Richard Kelly was 38, from Riverhead, New York, and was also an FDNY firefighter. He was a lieutenant assigned to Ladder 105, and was last seen entering the South Tower just before it collapsed at 9:59 a.m. Just two days earlier, he and his girlfriend had decided to meet at a bar after a long bike ride through all five boroughs of New York. While he was waiting, he met a man who was also a firefighter, whose name also happened to be Tom Kelly. Sadly, two days later, both men were killed at the World Trade Center while trying to save lives. His memorial page paints the picture of a firefighter who loved life and lived it to its fullest.
Others who perished that day just went to work that ordinary clear, sunny September morning. It would turn out to be anything but ordinary. Thomas William Duffy, from Pittsford, New York, was one such person. Mr. Duffy was a devoted husband of thirty years, a father of two sons, and a senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan. It seems that Mr. Duffy didn't work at the World Trade Center all the time, but the trip he made that morning was one of many he made each year. Marsh & McLennan was located just below Cantor Fitzgerald on 8 floors near the top of the North Tower, which collapsed that morning at 10:28.
Karen Hagerty, of New York City, was 34 and single. She was a senior vice president for Aon Risk Services in the World Trade Center. Aon was located just 5 floors from the top of the South Tower. Karen and many of her colleagues were among the many trying to make it down the stairwell when they heard an announcement that all was clear. The last time witnesses saw Karen was in the stairwell on the 78th floor as she told her colleagues she was headed back upstairs. (read more here) It wasn't long until an airliner hit the South Tower, and Karen was among those who perished.
It's been eight years since the attacks of 9/11. It's hard to remember the emotions of that day, and the days that would follow, but I hope we never lose the passion we felt during that time. Americans from all walks of life came together as one: as Americans. On this day, let us put politics aside, and give honor to those who gave their lives. It would do us all a world of good to remember what happened on 9/11, rather than sweep it aside as some have demanded. That September day forever changed this nation. May we never forget that some have paid the ultimate sacrifice. May we never forget the price of freedom.
May we never forget.
May God bless our nation.
**Where were you on 9/11/2001? How did that day change your life? Leave a comment and share your story.