We hope the day never comes when Americans think of “911” as nothing more than the phone number you call when you are in desperate need of help.
“9/11” is more than a phone number. It’s a date that, like Dec. 7, 1941, should continue to live in infamy in our minds.
Like Pearl Harbor Day, Sept. 11, 2001, was a day when America was surprised by an enemy it had reason to expect would come — but still wasn’t ready to handle.
Many are alive today who remember where they were when they heard President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
Fewer are left to remember they were when, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it, “the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Multiple generations of Americans now living will continue to remember where they were when they heard that terrorists had flown hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
Thanks to the bravery shown by the 40 crewmembers and passengers of Flight 93, another hijacked airliner was forced to crash into a field near Shanksville, Pennslvania, and the White House was spared a similar fate.
The National Park Service operates the Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
A sobering and imposing complex that involves sight and sound, it is dedicated to the memory of those who said “Let’s roll!” and fought back.
It can be compared to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where the sunken wreck of an American battleship and more than 900 of her crew — including Cumberland native Victor Tombolleo — rest in what we hope is eternal peace.
When Arizona died, so did 1,777 of her crew. An estimated nine quarts of fuel oil continue to seep from her bunkers each day, and visitors to the memorial can watch as it does so. The phenomenon is often referred to as Arizona’s “black tears.”
Dec. 7, 1941, marked America’s entry into World War II, which was to last nearly four more years.
Sept. 11, 2001, was the date America entered the “War on Terror,” which shows no sign of ending. Enemies are no longer as easy to identify, find and fight as they once were — otherwise that war likely would be over, as long as America had the will to make it happen.
The death toll at Pearl Harbor was 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians. Another 1,143 service members and 103 civilians died.
The Japanese lost 55 airmen.
On what we now call Patriot Day in 2001, 2,977 people died and more than 6,000 were injured. Most of them were civilians, except for 343 firefighters and law enforcement officers in New York City, and 55 military personnel at the Pentagon.
The 9/11 casualties included 372 people who were citizens of more than 90 foreign countries.
Nineteen terrorists died ... but too late.
Like the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and Arlington National Cemetery, you should go to see the Flight 93 Memorial. More than 300,000 people a year do that.
We also would invite you to visit Cumberland’s response to 9/11 and the War on Terror — what’s believed to be the nation’s first Gulf War Memorial, behind the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War posts.
Its walls contain the names of American service members who have died in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. New names are being added, and there is room for more.
Wounded veterans from the VA hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia, have been brought to Cumberland to see the memorial. The experience is said to give them some closure and help them heal from the mental wounds they have suffered.
America’s memorials speak not only to those who gave what President Abraham Lincoln once called “the last full measure of devotion,” but to the fact that America will never be as safe as it once was.
The vast oceans that lie to its east and west now are no barrier to an enemy incursion.
How safe America actually is will depend solely upon its people and whether they maintain the traditional resolve they’ve been displaying for more than 243 years ... resolve like that displayed by the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
We traditionally observe each Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, but should look at every day as Veterans Day. When you meet those who are veterans, or who are serving on active duty, please thank them for their service ... and your freedom.
America remains free because of them and their brothers and sisters who served before them.