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We will always remember 9/11

BY SEN. BILL HAGERTY
Before Sept. 11, 2001, we Americans moved about our lives with a confidence that our land was safe, secure, and protected from external threats.
It was just another weekday morning 20 years ago when that confidence was shattered. As the sun rose to reveal clear skies, Americans went off to work as they did every Tuesday, not knowing that this particular Tuesday would change the trajectory of our nation and its security posture forever.
The meeting I was attending that morning was interrupted by the flash of a horrific scene across the television screen: a passenger jet swallowed into one of the majestic towers of the World Trade Center.
Having previously worked on the 57th floor of the North tower, I instantly understood the magnitude of what had happened.
Like most, I hoped it must be an accident — until reality set in when it happened again just 18 minutes later. It was a moment that stopped the world in its tracks and sent waves of panic through hearts and homes.
Like so many, I immediately called my wife Chrissy and urged her to get to safety. We met at home, and we watched — as the rest of the country did — as the two towers collapsed, the Pentagon smoldered, and a field in rural Pennsylvania filled with fire and smoke.
One nation, under God, indivisible
We were overcome with so many emotions — alarm, anger, anxiety. These were dark days for our nation and the world. Though a new uncertainty gripped the American people in the days following, a simultaneous resolve and patriotism emerged from the ashes of devastation. It seemed natural for Americans to put aside our differences and come together as a nation.
It was palpable in moments that were once ordinary: we stopped honking in traffic; we held doors for one another; we offered generous smiles and waves to acquaintances. We lived as the words we had recited all of our lives had dictated: one nation, under God, indivisible.
This day will forever live in sacred remembrance.
Remembering — and never forgetting — the 2,977 precious lives lost 20 years ago.
Remembering every individual still bearing perpetual scars and the enduring pain of loss.
Remembering the thousands of brave men and women who boldly defended our freedoms — many paying the ultimate price.
And praying that God may draw near to the brokenhearted and hold them in the palm of His hand.
Let us emerge with renewed focus
Yet while Sept. 11, 2021, was a day for reflection, it was also a day to renew our resolve. Americans are no longer naïve to the threats we face daily at home and abroad. In the last eight months, Americans have watched, appalled, as the integrity of our nation’s border has collapsed.
One of the significant lessons we learned in the wake of 9/11 is that border security is national security. After all, these attacks were made possible, in part, by violations of our immigration laws. We’d be foolish to continue to allow and reward knowing violations of our generous immigration laws.
Similarly, in the last few weeks, Americans have watched, horrified, as fellow citizens have been stranded abroad in a withdrawal from Afghanistan that has cost American and Afghan lives, armed terrorists, emboldened our enemies, and made our Nation more vulnerable.
As we marked the 20th anniversary of this tragic day, I hope we emerged with renewed focus: to return to the days of, above all else, securing our homeland and those who call it home; and to return to the days of shared admiration and respect for our beloved country and each other.
This is the greatest nation the world has ever known. Let it not take another earth-shattering attack on our soil to re-awaken the patriotism and reverence for America that dwells in each of us.
(Sen. Bill Hagerty represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)