On this day, seventeen years ago, the earth stood still as we watched in disbelief, unable to grapple with the possibility that an attack of this magnitude was possible in our country. The events of 9/11 unleashed fear and vulnerability that many people had never felt before; that many children had never seen in their parents or guardians.
I remember the questions our kids asked us that day - they could sense the worry in our voices, and the disruption of routine. We wrestled with how, and how much, to explain, and in doing so we found refuge in one of Mr. Rodgers’ lessons: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
In the wake of unthinkable tragedy, we saw the resolve of the human spirit and the sheer heroism of ordinary people. From New York to Pennsylvania and inside the Pentagon, we witnessed people who gave so much of themselves to save the lives of their co-workers and complete strangers. As office workers funneled out of buildings and poured onto the streets of one of our largest cities, there were hundreds of people running into them: our first responders.
Without hesitation, every day, our first responders go above and beyond the call of duty and risk everything to save others. Here in Pennsylvania, we are proud to have more volunteer fire departments than any state in the nation.
Not all of us have the special skills or fortitude required to be a firefighter or police officer, but we can all contribute our own unique talents to the greater good. A few weeks after 9/11, a lawyer from South Carolina reached out to his local fire department, asking what type of services first responders and their families would benefit most from. Wills For Heroes, a program that provides free wills, living wills and powers of attorney for first responders, was created and has since connected volunteer attorneys to communities across the country. Many pro bono attorneys are proud to work with Wills For Heroes to honor our first responders with service to honor their sacrifice.
We are reminded every day of our responsibility to safeguard the world that we pass onto the next generation. It’s the unwritten promise of America and our constant call to action, one we shouldn’t only answer following a horrific, life-altering event.
While the memories of 9/11 are still fresh for many of us, after 17 years, we have already reached a point when our youth have no actual memory of the day and instead, learn about these life-changing events in history class. While memories may fade, I am certain that the greatness of the American spirit that led our first responders to risk the unthinkable on 9/11 in order to help their neighbors, and that bound our communities together to grieve, and console, and rebuild in the wake of the tragedy, will never fade.