This week, our nation is pausing to reflect on a tragedy that is known primarily by its date.
If you are old enough to remember Sept. 11, 2001, you will never forget where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news. It had the same impact as several other pivotal moments in our history, from the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy’s assassination to Neil Armstrong’s walking on the moon.
While Washington, D.C., New York and Pennsylvania were understandably the hardest-hit regions in our country, every state was affected in some way.
For Kentucky, a victim in the plane that struck one of the Twin Towers had lived here for a time, and a victim at the Pentagon was a Rowan County native.
One of the passengers on the plane striking the Pentagon, meanwhile, was the son-in-law of someone who had worked for the General Assembly.
There is another Kentucky connection to that day. The flag in the now-iconic photo featuring several firefighters raising it at Ground Zero originally came from here. It had been taken from a boat that, until the late 1990s, had belonged to a business developer here in the state who had bought the flag from a Barren County salesman.
Many may not know that the memorial to the Twin Towers is just a short walk away from where President Washington was first sworn into office and where the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights was introduced.
Speaking of American flags and President Washington, Sept. 11th is also the anniversary of the first battle in the American Revolution in which our country’s flag was carried. It is also the anniversary of the last battle of that war, the siege of Fort Henry in 1782.
Sept. 11th has two other key historical connections as well. In 1609, it was when the explorer Henry Hudson first sailed his ship by Manhattan, and in 1941, it marked the beginning of construction on the Pentagon.
Although there is anger and sadness as we think about the events that happened 17 years ago this week, we also are proud of the heroism that took place, from the first responders who lost their lives trying to help to those passengers on the plane over Pennsylvania who fought back and kept it from targeting another site in Washington.
That commitment to the greater good continues today through the actions of millions of men and women who have and continue to put their lives on the line for us as they serve our country and keep us safe here at home.
The General Assembly has worked over the years to honor all of their contributions and legacy. Seven years ago, for example, we declared that Sept. 11th would always be known as “9/11 First Responders Day,” and we have increased the training stipend for eligible emergency workers and raised the benefits for family members of those state and local government workers killed in the line of duty. Numerous other actions have helped our veterans transition into the private sector and boosted businesses owned by those who became disabled while serving in the military.
A lot has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, but the important things have not. We may have our differences from time to time, but at our core, we are still Americans and we are still willing to defend the values that bind us. No event will ever change that.