Editor’s note: The following is a condensed version of a speech local resident Laura Hertzog gave as a Los Alamitos Auxiliary, Unit 716 member at Post 555 on Saturday at a barbecue in remembrance of the terrorists attacks now known as 9/11.
September 11, 2001 began as a day like any other, but within a few short hours of sunrise, all of us were transfixed in shock and disbelief as images of destruction forever etched into our memories brought our lives to a standstill.
When the sun set on that day, we had lost 3,000 of our American brothers and sisters and went to bed restlessly wondering what the brutal attacks against American citizens on American soil meant for the future of our nation.
This year on September 11th, Americans gather united in purpose, to remember the victims of those horrific terrorist attacks.
During the aftermath of the attacks, our nation experienced something unprecedented as hundreds of emergency workers of the New York City Fire Department, Police Department, and Port Authority disregarded their personal safety and rushed into the burning World Trade Center buildings out of a strong commitment to duty and we saw over 400 of them pay the supreme sacrifice of service to their fellow Americans.
Never have we seen such a tremendous display of courage from non-military members of our nation all in one moment, and before the towers fell they had safely evacuated an estimated 14,000 people.
In the years that have followed this national tragedy, we continue to see men and women from every part of our land wage a war against those, like the 19 terrorists on 9-11.
For almost a decade, the United States military have engaged in the Global War on Terror, and over 5,000 uniformed service-members have paid the supreme sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq in order for all of us to enjoy personal freedom without the fear of attack. Our desire as a nation is to never be caught unprepared by such surprise attacks on our soil again. Throughout the past decade, we have experienced great relief from time to time when we hear of the plans of other criminal terrorists thwarted because our nation’s institutions remain vigilant.
The threat remains now as it did on September 10, 2001, and we must honor the memory of those killed by recommitting ourselves to the principles of freedom and security that have always served to make us a great nation. To live in fear and worry and mistrust is to live without true freedom.
Let us not forget the servicemembers who are deployed overseas and routinely put themselves in harm’s way as they endeavor to maintain peace throughout the world. They voluntarily swear to defend our nation, its constitution, and especially, its people.
In recent years, the word “Patriot” has become confused for many people. To some, it is associated with intolerance and perhaps even fear of those who belong to groups and that are different from us. The real definition of Patriot, according to the dictionary, is “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” This definition transcends politics, party affiliations, factions, and special interests. To love the United States of America is not only to support the government, regardless of the individuals currently serving in it; but to love America, to demonstrate true Patriotism in its truest sense, is to grieve when fellow Americans grieve, to celebrate when they celebrate, to join together in preserving the memory of our tragedies and triumphs, and to stand together to in unity to face an uncertain future.
The long conflict continues, but for us today, we join together to pay our respects and to preserve the memory of those 3,000 individuals, United 93 passenger, Todd Beamer, in his last moments on this earth, said two words that continue to ring with resolve. As he and the other brave passengers of that flight began the fight against terrorism, he said “Let’s Roll!” Out of the darkest day in modern American history, those words and that confident attitude embolden us to continue to lay aside political differences and join together as an American family to march into the future as Patriots.
We will never forget September 11th, 2001, as America’s darkest day.
Laura Herzog does Community/Public Relations for the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. She also volunteers for cancer research fundraisers.