Terri Branham Clark
There are a handful of events in our country’s history that will never leave the collective memory of those who lived through them. A few include Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and – 19 years ago this Friday – a tragedy that is first recognized by its date: 9/11.
Nearly 3,000 died that day in 2001 in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Those areas may have been the most affected, but every state felt the loss.
For Kentucky, one resident was a victim in the plane that struck one of the Twin Towers and another at the Pentagon was a Rowan County native. He had been scheduled off that day, but came in to help a co-worker.
One of the passengers on the plane striking that building, meanwhile, was the son-in-law of someone who had worked for the General Assembly.
There is another connection that day linked to the commonwealth. The flag in the now-iconic photo featuring several firefighters raising it at Ground Zero originally came from here. It was previously owned by a Kentucky businessman who had bought it from a Barren County salesman.
Historically, many may not realize that Ground Zero is just a few hundred yards from where George Washington was sworn in as the United States’ first president and where the Constitution’s Bill of Rights were introduced. That means a short walk links one of our country’s most tragic events with one of our most enduring successes.
September 11th is also the anniversary of other important dates in our country. On that day in 1609, for example, the explorer Henry Hudson first sailed his ship by Manhattan, later home to the World Trade Center; and in 1941, that day marked the beginning of construction on the Pentagon.
9/11 may first be a time of solemn remembrance, but it also represents the heroism born that day. Those stories range from the firefighters and other first responders who gave their lives in the Twin Towers trying to save others to the passengers in the flight over Pennsylvania who fought back valiantly.
In the years since that day, we have also had hundreds of thousands of brave men and women serve our nation in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. Our state – home to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell and many who are part of the National Guard and the Reserves – understands the sacrifice this has required all too well.
At least several of our communities have permanent reminders of what was lost in 2001. The Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central in Radcliff is home to the Kentucky September 11th Memorial, which contains part of the steel beams from the World Trade Center and stones from the Pentagon. Harrison and Muhlenberg counties are two other communities with memorials containing steel beams from the World Trade Center.
As we remember those we lost, perhaps the best way we can honor their legacy is to follow the words of the sister of the 1st Class Petty Officer from Rowan County who died at the Pentagon.
“9/11 is volunteer day, so do something,” she said. “Go read to a veteran, go give blood, do something that’s going to help your fellow man, show kindness, buy somebody coffee. Help where you can help.”
As we near the anniversary of this somber day in our history, my prayers for families forever changed that day and my hope we all remember and recall the unity that pulled us together as a nation on that darkest day. United We Stand.