Tomorrow we will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Looking back, it’s almost impossible to imagine the devastation of that day, and the effects that reverberate to this day.
I remember the shocking images of planes colliding into the World Trade Center and stunned survivors emerging from the buildings. At the same time, I recall the concern and pride I felt seeing brave first responders rush into the burning towers to save anyone they could. The courage they displayed was humbling and inspiring. And then the towers collapsed.
The stories of bravery of the airline passengers on Flight 93 became legends. We all tragically learned some of their last words were “Let’s roll!” as they gamely attempted to take control of the doomed plane. It crashed outside Shanksville, PA killing 40 passengers and crew, plus the four terrorists that were presumably trying to crash into the U.S. Capitol. Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way is a continual reminder of the passengers’ courage.
The fourth plane, American Airlines Flight 77, circled around Washington, D.C. before crashing into the Pentagon, home to the U.S. Department of Defense. As jet fuel ignited, a portion of the building collapsed and 125 military and civilian personnel died, as well as all 64 people on the airliner.
The assault on our people and our country caused deep and powerful trauma. Images and video from that horrible day still haunt us. (14 U.S. Naval Academy graduates, two U.S. Air Force Academy graduates, and one U.S. Military Academy graduate were among the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day.)
At the same time, I remember our country coming together in a kind of unity that is sorely needed today. Our shared grief crossed over political, religious, and geographic differences. For a period of time, we renewed our commitment to each other and to the ideals of freedom, security and gratitude to those who risked everything to keep us safe.
It is fitting, then, that next week we will honor and remember those from our community that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. Our First Responders Memorial will be dedicated in a small but important ceremony. Large plinths include the engraved names of each person lost in the line of duty from the ranks of firefighters, law enforcement and military police.
I hope you can take a few moments to join us at the beautiful memorial on September 16th at 10:00 a.m. at the CCB.
Before I close, I want to remind you that September is Emergency Preparedness Month. Jody Ferguson and the Emergency Management Team have been heroes in their work to protect us from the pandemic and help us recover. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their non-stop service over the last 18 months. One of the ways we can honor them is to heed their request that we prepare for the kinds of emergencies that we can expect in Pierce County so we can be ready to help our community.
Please take a few moments to make sure you and your loved ones are ready for a disaster. To help you get started, take a look at this video of a guy with a few tips for your own emergency kit:
Our Emergency Management Team continues to support our community as we fight COVID, including operating an effective and efficient drive-thru testing site – open daily without an appointment. If you know of anyone needing a test, let them know about this great free option – on Tuesday they tested 700 residents! (https://www.piercecountywa.gov/7086/Pierce-County-Covid-19-Testing-Site)
I hope you’ll take a moment this weekend to remember and express your gratitude to those who have answered the call without hesitation or concern for their own lives. Their willingness to lay down their lives for us is the ultimate act of selflessness and duty. Let’s keep working to be worthy of that sacrifice.