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There are only a handful of days in which a whole country collectively remembers what it was doing. Some have been high points in our history, like V-E and V-J Day at the end of World War II and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. And some have been moments we wish had never occurred, like Pearl Harbor, President Kennedy’s assassination, and the tragedies of September 11, 2001.
For those old enough to remember that last date, it seems hard to believe that 10 years have slipped by since that cool and clear morning.
Though New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were affected most that day, no state was untouched. In Kentucky’s case, one of the victims on the flight that struck the World Trade Center’s South Tower had lived in Louisville during his youth.
Among the Pentagon’s losses was a Rowan County native, and one of the victims in the plane that struck that building was the son-in-law of a woman who was working for the General Assembly at the time.
Kentucky also has a strong connection to another memory that arose from that day: The flag flown in the famous photo of firefighters raising it at Ground Zero was originally bought from a salesman based in Barren County. The flag, and the boat from which it was taken, were previously owned by a developer who kept the boat on Lake Cumberland before selling it in 1997.
It turns out that the area around the World Trade Center is full of history. Just about two hundred yards away from Ground Zero, George Washington was sworn into his first term as president and our nation’s Bill of Rights were adopted. That means a short walk now links one of our country’s darkest times and one of our most enduring victories.
As a date, September 11th is special in history as well. Speaking of American flags and President Washington, that day is 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.
It has been a little more than 400 years since the explorer Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan Island, the eventual home of the Twin Towers, on that day. And September 11th is also the anniversary of the start of construction of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The day will understandably never be thought of the same away after what happened in 2001, but it did not change who we are and the ideals we represent. We saw that in the selfless acts of emergency workers who willingly risked their own lives to help others that day. We saw it in the outpouring of support from across the country in the days that followed. And we have seen it in the years since then in our unrelenting pursuit to track down those responsible and bring them to justice.
Like almost everyone from their mid-teen years forward, I will never forget where I was when I heard the news and then watched it unfold on television. It still seems like such a short time ago.
But as we come together on Sunday to recall that tragic morning, and remember those whose lives were lost that day, it is well worth noting that our strength as a nation has never wavered in the decade since then. That, perhaps, is the most fitting tribute of all.
Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. He may be reached by writing to Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601, or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 – TTY (800) 896-0305.