By: Sen. Susan M. Collins
Nineteen years have passed, but the memory of September 11, 2001, remains as vivid as if it were yesterday. We each have our own recollections of where we were and what we were doing as the horrifying attacks began to unfold. We share the still powerful emotions of shock, anger, and grief.
On this solemn anniversary, we join all Americans in remembering each of the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day – lives of accomplishment, contribution, and promise. Each loss leaves a wound in the hearts of families and friends that can never be fully healed.
Here in Maine, we remember Robert and Jackie Norton of Lubec, a retired couple who boarded Flight 11 to celebrate a son’s wedding on the West Coast. We remember James Roux of Portland, an Army veteran and a devoted father, on Flight 175 for a business meeting in California. We remember Robert Schlegel of Gray who was celebrating his recent promotion to the rank of Commander in the United States Navy, and still settling into his new office at the Pentagon. We remember Stephen Ward of Gorham, who was working on the 101st floor of the North Tower that terrible morning.
And we honor the heroes of that day. We still are moved by the selfless courage of men and women on Flight 93 who wrestled that plane to the ground, sacrificing their lives so that others might live. We are inspired by the firefighters and police officers at the World Trade Center who continued to climb upward in rescue even as the Twin Towers were coming down. We pay tribute to the first responders, the military personnel, and the civilians who rushed into the smoke and flames at the Pentagon to lead others to safety. We express our gratitude to those who have given so much to defend our nation against terrorism -- the men and women of our armed forces.
On the evening of that terrible day, members of Congress gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. With tears in our eyes and resolve in our hearts, together we sang, “God Bless America.” The emotions of shock, anger, and grief were joined by unity, resolve, and patriotism. That moment remains my most enduring memory of that awful day. The sense of resolve and patriotism that swept over us as we sang was a source of strength in the challenges we faced.
That spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation helped bring Congress together to pass new laws to protect the American people. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I led many efforts to help prevent another major terrorist attack, including co-authoring reform legislation to coordinate our nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and spearheading changes to better secure America’s transportation networks, chemical plants, and other critical infrastructure.
Today, our nation is experiencing a different set of challenges. In order to overcome them, we need to recapture that feeling of unity our country experienced following September 11th. We must strive to work together for the common good. We should respect our neighbors who hold different views from our own.
The heroism we witnessed on September 11th reminds us of the unconquerable spirit of the American people. Our accomplishments remind us that we can meet any difficulty with decisive action. As long as we keep the meaning of this day of remembrance in our hearts, we shall meet our present challenges as well as the ones that lie ahead.