It was 11 years ago today that Islamic terrorists humbled our great nation.
Hijacking four U.S. passenger jets, the terrorists from a well-funded group known as al-Qaida crashed two into the World Trade Center towers. Within hours, the towers crumbled to the ground. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. The fourth was meant for the U.S. Capitol Building, home of Congress, but instead it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., after several brave passengers tried to retake it.
In total, nearly 3,000 people were killed.
The Sept. 11 attacks shattered America’s sense of security and changed the course of world events.
But in the attacks’ immediate aftermath, Americans united.
We huddled around televisions, computers, and telephones. We cried together, we prayed together, we joined spontaneous vigils. We donated time and money.
Americans united to help the families of those killed.
We united to show our resolve to al-Qaida, to track down those who plotted these horrible attacks and bring them to justice. Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama Bin Laden, finally was brought to justice just last year, when brave U.S. Navy Seals stormed his compound in Afghanistan and shot him to death.
The attacks prompted two U.S.-led wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, claiming the lives of more than 6,500 U.S. soldiers and costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars. The casualties include seven from McHenry County:
• Army Pfc. Collier Barcus of McHenry (died July 8, 2004, in Iraq).
• Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Collins of Crystal Lake (died Aug. 8, 2004, in Iraq).
• Army Spc. Keith Nurnberg of McHenry (died Sept. 5, 2007, in Iraq).
• Army Spc. Lukasz D. Saczek of Lake in the Hills, (died May 10, 2009, in Afghanistan).
• Army Sgt. Jason A. McLeod of Crystal Lake (died Nov. 23, 2009, in Afghanistan).
• Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Antonik, 29, of Crystal Lake (died July 11, 2010, in Afghanistan).
• Marine Capt. Nathan R. McHone, 29, of Crystal Lake (died Jan. 19, 2012, in Afghanistan).
These brave soldiers died to preserve our freedom and way of life, and we thank them and honor them for their bravery.
Now, exactly 11 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, we are a country deeply divided.
President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, likely will take a break from the vitriolic rhetoric of their campaigns and commemorate the day, as they should.
But tomorrow, the rhetoric surely will return.
We urge the candidates, and all Americans, when commemorating the day’s events, to remember the unity we shared back in 2001. Remember how we stood together as Americans, not as partisans.
We can disagree on the important issues of the day. We must debate what’s best for the future of our country. But we can be respectful of each other.
That’s the best way we can honor those who died.