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Mark Alexander / September 13, 2002

Post 9-11 — Year One

A year has now passed since the most murderous act of war ever against the United States. Wednesday memorial services across the nation – and throughout the world – honored the memory of 3,025 innocent dead from the coordinated 9-11 attacks on symbols of U.S. military and economic might.

President George Bush vowed at the morning Pentagon commemoration, “What happened to our nation on a September day set in motion the first great struggle of a new century. The enemies who struck us are determined and they are resourceful. They will not be stopped by a sense of decency or a hint of conscience – but they will be stopped.”

Ceremonies at each of the 9-11 attack sites differed in character, as befitting the circumstances of the deaths there. New York City was a place of mourning. Moments of silence marked the times when two planes were driven as human-guided missiles into New York’s World Trade Center twin towers, and when each of the towers disintegrated in a twisted rubble of death and destruction – punctuated by a reading of the names of the 2,801 murdered. Family members for the first time walked the dust of the seven-story-deep hole left from excavation of the debris of the towers’ collapse, placing flowers and personal mementos to grieve lost loved ones.

The Pentagon’s memorial remembered the 184 killed in that attack, emphasizing rededication to the service in which they sacrificed their lives. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted: “The terrorists wanted September 11th to be a day when innocents died. Instead it was a day when heroes were born. The terrorists wanted September 11th to be a day when hatred reigned. Instead it was a day when we witnessed love beyond measure. …The greatest honor we can bestow…, the best memorial we can fashion…is to protect our liberty and secure it for generations to come. That is our charge, that is our responsibility.”

The president journeyed on to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where after a passenger uprising UAL 93 was flown into the ground rather than its Washington, DC, target – believed now to be the Capitol Building. Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker remarked on the “uncommon courage” of the 40 passengers and crew, first to know of their terrorist hijackers’ intent with time to react: “It was here that freedom took its first stand.” The American Legion honored them with 40 Gold Heroism Awards, echoing The Federalist’s view a year ago that these were the first combat deaths in the war that began that day.

The toll of names hardly measures our country’s wound. Our Jihadi enemies counted each of those deaths as a success. We grieve each as an incalculable loss – as the president noted, ending his remembrances of the anniversary from New York Harbor’s Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty lofts her lamp. “Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality. More than anything else, this separates us from the enemy we fight. We value every life; our enemies value none – not even the innocent, not even their own. …In the ruins of two towers, under a flag unfurled at the Pentagon, at the funerals of the lost, we have made a sacred promise to ourselves and to the world: we will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secure. What our enemies have begun, we will finish. … A milestone is passed, and a mission goes on. …Ours is the cause of human dignity; freedom guided by conscience and guarded by peace. This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it.”

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