Dear Friend, For the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, I visited the site in New York City of that fateful day. I shared my memories in a short video as we remember that day and everything it means to this nation.
For 20 years, our nation has taken this day, September 11th, to reflect on those fateful moments when our nation came under attack. In those 20 years, a new generation has entered our nation, children have grown into adults, and we have shifted into a new era of American history. However, this solemn anniversary reminds us that America is not invincible. We can take casualties. We can be attacked. It was a moment of realization that none of us will ever forget.
On September 11th, 2001, I was serving as the Assistant District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties. It was a normal Tuesday morning in the office. My colleagues had just poured their second cup of coffee and many were discussing college sports and wishing for another Labor Day when we learned that a Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. When the second Boeing 767 flew into the south tower it became clear that the first crash was not an accident. Everyone across the nation now knew this was an act of terror.
As I sat there in the office monitoring television, I called my wife, even though I knew that Mississippi was not a target. All I knew at that moment was that I wanted to speak with my loved ones. An hour after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon. In total, we lost almost 3,000 American souls that day. Every American searched for solace and help, and many turned to prayer.
After the third plane hit, a judge called us down to the courtroom and said, “I’m going to do something that has probably never been done before, and if I get in trouble for it, so be it. But I’m going to offer prayer on behalf of our nation.”
In that courtroom, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, individuals who were in court that day, and criminal defendants all bowed their heads as a judge offered a prayer for our country. I believe we joined the entire nation, people from all backgrounds, at that moment in prayer. It was a moment that defined a generation. It was a moment that demonstrated American strength.
Although we came face-to-face with the reality that our nation could be hit, we also realized that we could not be knocked down.
We know that 2,996 individuals lost their lives that day; but, out of that day, out of that great tragedy, we also saw unity in this country, something that unfortunately has diminished in these last 20 years. I remember seeing and watching Members of Congress standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in unity and singing God Bless America. I remember the pride when I saw President George W. Bush visit the former site of the World Trade Center with a bullhorn telling those first responders that he heard them, that the world heard them, and that the people who knocked down those buildings would soon hear America. I remember the pride when our military dismantled al-Qaeda and overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan, and I remember a decade later when we learned that American special forces had executed that daring raid in Pakistan and killed the mastermind of those terrible attacks.
Today is not only a day to remember the lives we lost, but also a day to recognize American strength and resilience. We must never forget those Americans who died on September 11th. We must never forget the brave first responders who gave their lives. We must never forget that our nation is strong and must always hold on to those principles that make it so. We must never forget that we all belong to one nation, under God. We must never, ever forget the lessons of strength that were forged by that terrible day. God bless America.
Member of Congress