It has been 12 years since we watched steel and metal rain from the sky.
We watched in disbelief and shock as Islamic terrorists flew hijacked planes into what seemed like impenetrable structures and a field, as heroes rushed into burning buildings, as the fatality count reached nearly 3,000 people.
We united, and we cried, prayed, raged and mourned.
Our country forever changed that day. Whether the changes wrought by 9/11 were good, bad or somewhere in between has yet to be determined.
We have yet to recapture the sense of solidarity the country exhibited in the weeks after the attack. Partisanship, not compromise, is now the way of doing business.
We struggle to balance giving the government powers to keep us safe from the threat of terrorism with safeguarding the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
And we mourn the more than 6,600 U.S. soldiers who have died in the two U.S.-led wars promoted by that day, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The casualties include seven from McHenry County:
• Army Pfc. Collier Barcus of McHenry (July 8, 2004, Iraq).
• Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Collins of Crystal Lake (Aug. 8, 2004, Iraq).
• Army Spc. Keith Nurnberg of McHenry (Sept. 5, 2007, Iraq).
• Army Spc. Lukasz D. Saczek of Lake in the Hills, (May 10, 2009, Afghanistan).
• Army Sgt. Jason A. McLeod of Crystal Lake (Nov. 23, 2009, Afghanistan).
• Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Antonik, 29, of Crystal Lake (July 11, 2010, Afghanistan).
• Marine Capt. Nathan R. McHone, 29, of Crystal Lake (Jan. 19, 2012, Afghanistan).
The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq in 2011. More than 60,000 remain as part of the NATO force in Afghanistan, fighting to preserve the freedoms we cherish. We thank them, knowing our words don’t even start to compensate the debt all soldiers pay for protecting us.
But today shouldn’t be about the political fighting, or a debate about whether NSA eavesdropping is legal or other issues that get people’s blood boiling.
Leave that for tomorrow.
Today is about the nearly 3,000 souls who left the world too soon. It’s about the loved ones they left behind, who think about 9/11 more than once a year, and the thousands of others affected by the day our collective innocence was forever lost.
We remember – forever.