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9/11: Looking back and looking ahead

This week, the nation commemorated the devastating Sept. 11 attacks that took the lives of 2,997 people, injured more than 6,000 others and decimated the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

It’s hard to fathom, but 18 years have passed since that dreaded morning. With sunny skies, four planes transformed into weapons of destruction at the hands of 19 al-Qaeda hijackers hellbent on terror. The planes were destined for the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and, it is believed, the Capitol — though that attack was diverted by brave passengers and crewmen who took down the hijackers, at the cost of their own lives, in a Pennsylvania field. 

That day saw the single deadliest terrorist attack in the history of mankind. It was also the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States. On 9/11, 343 firefighters were killed as were 72 law enforcement officers.

Sept. 11 will never be just another date in the minds of Americans. It was one of the darkest days this nation has ever faced — and where we were, who we were with and what we were doing is probably burned into many of our memories.

Ever since that fateful day, Americans have felt less safe. The concept of terrorism is scary, even debilitating; terrorism on home soil even more so. Most people now, especially New Yorkers, are suspect of strangers, of unmarked packages and of discarded backpacks. We’ve been trained that way, and the mantra, “If you see something, say something,” is worthwhile advice that can, and has, proven invaluable. 

Our reliance on such safety measures is understandable, as is our dependence on the people behind such sage advice. Our first responders, for one, have been an integral part of the Sept. 11 narrative. They were there when the towers  fell. They were there when the search for survivors began. And they are there now, as we continue to deal with the fallout of those terrorist attacks and try to find some semblance of peace. For that, we thank them. 

All first responders are heroes to us. They put their lives on the line and their mental and physical well being at risk — for strangers they don’t know and may not remember. They serve valiantly to protect us. They keep us safe and secure. And that goes for people in every community — not just in NYC.

Here in the Harlem Valley, we are just as indebted to our emergency workers. They are the lifeline of our close-knit community and it is impossible to properly thank them for the hours they volunteer or the work they do.

What we would like to say, though, is this: when personal safety and community welfare are at stake, politics go out the window. It doesn’t matter what party you’re registered with or which candidate you support — when protecting our country and our hometowns, first responders think only of how to help. Politics is the last thing from their minds. 

Ours, too, especially as we take a moment to remember those we have lost to terrorism — at home and abroad — and to thank those who responded with care. 

Of special note, we’d like to add our support of the recently replenished September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, with the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, acted on by Congress to compensate the victims or victims’ families of the 9/11 attack as part of an agreement for their not suing the airlines. 

This year, President Trump signed permanent authorization — previously it had only received temporary funding — for the fund. The new bill is expected to cost at least $10.2 billion during the first decade, but would then be open-ended until the year 2092, to deal with whatever the need ends up being.

That move, supported by so many Americans and all but two members of Senate, shows the support our first responders deserve and the respect they have earned. And even with that, we owe them so much more.