President's Notebook

President's Notebook

My View from South Hill

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Posted by Thomas Rochon at 1:44PM   |  Add a comment
The Twin Towers under attack. Photo by STR/Reuters/Landov.

I had the honor earlier today of being one of a number of speakers invited to offer a reflection for the Ithaca community on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, with an emphasis on remembering the first responders who died that day in the line of duty. These comments are offered in that context, and not as a comprehensive set of thoughts about 9/11 or its aftermath.


It was the defining moment of our lives. It was the moment that left an immediate and visceral impact on every one of us as individuals. It was the moment that seared new understandings into the American collective consciousness about who we are as a nation and about our relationships to the rest of the world. It was the moment that provides us today, ten years later, with a question that everyone over the age of 14 or 15 can readily answer: Where were you when the Twin Towers were struck, when they burst into flames, and when they fell?

In the minutes and hours following that impact, our country had a once-per-generation experience of seeing heroism in action. We meet this morning at the Ithaca fire station as a reminder of the heroism displayed on that day by fire fighters, police officers and other first responders both in New York and elsewhere. 

We know that many additional acts of individual heroism took place in the offices and stairwells of the World Trade Center, on the streets of New York, in and around the Pentagon, among passengers on the plane that came to ground in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. We will never be able to know the stories of all those whose personal sacrifices on that day illustrate the best that is within us with respect to human solidarity and community. 

Ten years have passed since that defining moment. The ripples from the impacts of those four planes continue to spread, for better and for worse. We are, as a nation, warier and more worldly. We are more attuned to global issues, issues that today play a much larger role in our education of the next generation. Our communities are stronger. Perhaps above all, we appreciate to a greater degree the protective services provided by fire fighters, police, the armed forces and others. 

9/11 changed us. As we look back, we do so with mourning, with humility, with determination to reach out and strengthen the brotherhood of all people, and above all with gratitude to those who keep us safe.


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