There are moments that define a generation.
If you’re over the age of about 25, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing during the unthinkable attacks on our country on September 11, 2001.
When I heard that the second plane hit the Twin Towers, I was headed back to Emmett from the ranch. I drove past Freezeout Hill, where one year later we would dedicate a 9/11 memorial. Like many other Americans, when I heard what happened I spent much of the day watching the coverage on a small TV at our office in Emmett, wondering what to expect.
Like the first moon landing or President Kennedy’s assassination, there are historic events that escape no one’s memory.
Now, two decades later, we reflect on 9/11 – both our memory of the events and what we learned from them.
We remember watching the footage in horror, jaws dropped in disbelief as the second plane hit the Twin Towers and we, as Americans, started to realize we were a country under attack.
We remember seeing terrified faces of Americans watching on as black smoke billowed out of two buildings so massive that they made Manhattan’s other skyscrapers look like toothpicks.
We remember hearing the blaring sound of sirens and seeing heroic firefighters, police officers, and other first responders charging into the burning buildings as others fled.
We remember watching the Twin Towers crumble, ash and debris filling the streets in a way a bomb couldn’t, and the deafening, eerie silence that followed. An unbelievable amount of smoldering rubble was piled high at Ground Zero.
We witnessed an enormous hole in the side of the Pentagon – a building that symbolizes the strength of our U.S. military and where Idahoan and Rexburg native Brady Howell died that morning working – and the image of soldiers and firefighters hanging a large American flag on the side of the building following the attack, signifying our country’s strength and resolve.
We remember seeing a hole in the ground outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where brave Americans onboard took control of a hijacked plane with an unknown target – saving countless American lives.
We heard stories of tragedy and of heroism.
Just as we can recall specific details about what we saw and heard on that tragic day, we also remember our individual and collective reaction to the events of 9/11.
We can remember a country coming together in a way rarely seen before.
We all tempered our personal political opinions to come together and demonstrate strength and patriotism. We inspired the rest of the world. American flags could be seen everywhere.
Our younger generation didn’t experience it, but those of us who did can share with them what we learned – that in the middle of a crisis we have an opportunity to come together and build up each other and our country.
One year after 9/11, with both military and first responders, Governor Dirk Kempthorne and I dedicated an American flag and memorial on Freezeout Hill to commemorate the men and women who lost their lives and the heroes who acted in bravery.
We will never forget 9/11, and we must never relent in helping future generations understand the lesson of patriotism that grew out of 9/11 – that all of us, despite our individual and varied political opinions – can live out a love for our country during a tragedy, and every day.
God bless America!