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Page last updated on March 7, 2019 at 10:37 am

Like most of you, I can remember precisely where I was 15 years ago today.  Worked for state government at the time. Had an early breakfast meeting. Heard something about plane crash while at the meeting. Returned to the office. Surreal. Like most of America. Much of the world, spent the next hours unable to work, but just drawn to witness what was happening in New York, DC, and in a field in Pennsylvania. Quite a few employees were stuck outside the state as all airlines and airports were grounded and shut.

Gradual during the day, the realization of the depth of the impact. The horror of the many individual stories and losses. A dear friend’s brother in second tower to be hit.

Quiet of the skies for 3 days. The shock of the scope of the devastation at Ground Zero. The sense of vulnerability at home. The wonder if other attacks were planned. Our family at Spring Mill Park previously planned a weekend. With 5 and 2 year old. Camping with no electricity; no news. No modern conveniences. Church in little wooden cabin, no lights.….

We all have our own memories of that day and its aftermath. If you’re like me, you still feel a jolt of pain when seeing twin towers in old movies, photos.

Of course, today, all our elementary school children, and most freshmen in high school, were born after the attack. More than 80 million young people with no personal memory of that day. What do we want them to carry about this day? That is, what is this day of memorial for?

I want to pay special thanks today to this new memorial and those who made it happen here in Bloomington. To Ivy Tech, our host this morning. To all the volunteers who brought this ceremony together this year and every year since 9/11. And particularly to our own firefighters – our first responders – who made this new memorial possible. Bob Loviscek who brought this to reality. Including personally retrieving and delivering this piece of Ground Zero placed here today. It is a piece of the hallowed ground shared with us here, 100s of miles away, to remember.

And what is it that we are to remember? And what are we to tell those younger persons who don’t have a personal memory at all?

I would venture it’s not the hatred that cause the day. Though that day certainly was caused by terrible hatred. It’s not the military response that followed the attack.

Indeed there are valid questions about some of our choices that we made as a nation following that attack.  [Iraq invasion. The changes to our personal Freedoms? Torture? Extraordinary rendition?] Lessons from this day are not simple ones.

But what I would suggest we want people to take away or remember are really three things:

One is to honor the 3,000 innocent victims of that day. To remember that a collection of people of all colors, religions, political persuasions, ages, beliefs, -- Americans – were taken from us that day. We remember them, their families, their survivors, their stories – the lives that were lost.

Second, surely we remember the immediacy and courage of the first responders and others who dropped everything to help. Including the passengers in Shanksville, and of course first and foremost the firefighters of New York and surrounding areas, as well as other public safety officials, who risked everything, and in hundreds of cases, lost their lives, in order to help their fellow citizens. That sense of mutual obligation, of bravery, of duty – of self-sacrifice, is surely a central lesson we want people to remember from 9/11.

And a third lesson is related. Remember how the world reacted? Remember how millions of human beings, came together to share in grief, and to state this shall not stand. That acts of hatred like this will not tear us apart?  The suicidal terrorists of that day wanted to knock down buildings and break apart a democracy, to tear apart a fabric of a people, to wreck the ideals and the idea of multicultural, modern democracy.

And they did knock down two buildings and damage another. They murdered 3,000 innocent people.  But they did NOT tear apart a fabric; instead we saw a strong knitting together of the fabric of humanity. We saw humans from different cultures and languages and countries and political parties, recognize how much we have in common – in civilization, against the violence and hatred that seeks at times to separate us.

Nothing is guaranteed. Many still seek to tear us apart, to divide us one from another, across nations and within nations. I hope the lasting lesson of 9/11 includes the tenacious belief that we are together….we are unified in our commitment to peaceful coexistence, to self-sacrifice and to bravery. I hope this memorial here in a place where ideas matter, where we come together to learn, where we study the past and study science to create a better future for all of us, I hope this memorial here will remind all of us of the loss of innocent life that day, and of bravery and duty and self-sacrifice, and of the importance of community, of shared destiny, of the common humanity, that violence will not prevail over peace and good will, it must not, and it is up to each of us every day to do what we can to see that it is so.

Thank you to you all for being here. Thank you for creating this beautiful memorial for our community.