At precisely at 7:30 a.m. on September 9, 2016, Clinton County Commissioner Mike Curry will step-up to the podium at Wilmington City Hall and deliver a speech. Mike will take his place under the large American flag, pause as he looks out among the crowd, and begin his remarks.
Meanwhile, all across America, particularly in small towns like Leavenworth, Washington; Stowe, Vermont; Maysville, Kentucky; Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee; and Beaufort, South Carolina, speakers like Mike will rise to remember the morning of September 11, 2001, and to remember those men and women who lost their lives at the hands of the terrorists.
Last year I was given the honor to speak at this special remembrance. These were my remarks:
“Ashland, Virginia, is a quaint, little town, resting about fifteen miles north of Richmond. The railroad tracks run through the middle of the downtown, past neatly trimmed landscapes and pristine Victorian homes.
This old Civil War town was home to a friend of mine. He had a good friend, a soldier, a man about forty years old, who boarded the train every day and rode 55 minutes to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to report for duty.
This soldier had a good family and a good job. His five year old son, Tyler, came over almost every morning to my friend’s home before kindergarten to play with his son. Life was good.
As most of us recall, the morning was bright and clear on September 11, 2001, and the sky was a brilliant blue when the soldier left for work. It felt like fall. All seemed right in the world. Life was good.
As most of us recall, the morning was bright and clear on September 11, 2001, and the sky was a brilliant blue when the soldier left for work. It felt like fall. All seemed right in the world.
But all was not right with the world. At 9:37 a.m. two terrorists deliberately crashed a Boeing 757 into the western side of the Pentagon, killing all 64 people on board including the five hijackers and six crew, as well as, 125 people inside the building.
For the next several hours, thousands of frantic phone calls were made as family members and friends sought to ensure their loved ones were ok. Sadly, for many, their loved ones were not.
Later that evening, Tyler’s mother called my friend to tell him that her husband, Tyler’s dad, was caught in the collapsed side of the Pentagon that morning, and had perished along with 125 other military personnel.
Their lives continue to touch ours. And that is why we are here this morning, in Wilmington, Ohio, as we have been each and every September 11th to pay tribute and to remember.
It was very moving to see our fine firefighters raise the American flag this morning. I ask you to look past the flag for a moment. I ask you to see not with your eyes, but with your hearts, that which is difficult for us here today to see.
Imagine the final moments of those men and women in the Pentagon, in New York City, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania on that fateful day. Those were not peaceful moments, unlike these we share here this morning.
Let’s remember September 11, 2001, not as the date of death, but as the moment their lives touched ours, and are stretching through time to touch us again, here today. Those men and women reshaped the face of the nation and the course of history.
A week ago, my wife Brenda and I returned to Ashland, Virginia. We walked along the railroad tracks until we came to the small cemetery where Tyler’s dad was laid to rest 14 years ago.
We walked among the tombstones and observed friends and family members standing silently over the graves of loved ones. Peggy Noonan reminds us, “On most days, there is someone who is remembering for us. No matter if it is hot and humid or cold and snowy, there are people leaving a flag or a tiny flower on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and sometimes you can hear them speak a name. “We miss you,” they say. “We often think of you.” We miss you with all of our hearts.” In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones, and all we can do is remember.”
And that is what we do today. We remember.
Those events move us to our very core, and the emotions they stir in us do not diminish over time. In fact, they grow.
Let us celebrate their souls today, remembering with our hearts, that their spirit lives on, and thrives in each one of us.
And all we can do is remember.”
Thank you and God Bless America.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.