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Thank you all for being here, and thank Ivy Tech, Bob Loviscek, and all who made this beautiful monument and memorial and ceremony happen. It is good to be together here and now on this morning, this September 11th day. Good to be together as community members locally, and in spirit with people all around our country, indeed the world, remembering this day.

Since this memorial was dedicated two years ago, it’s been a powerful symbol for me, and a place for personal dedication, to keep working on remembering the past, and committing to making the future better. We remember today that military personnel are in harm’s way even still, 17 years later, in response to this attack on America. We remember today that other national representatives are working every day to improve our relationships all across the planet, to help minimize and reduce the anger and hatred and divisiveness that can lead to violence. That work for peace and justice, with America leading the way, we hope and trust, in exemplifying that commitment.

Like for many of you, I think, that day and this monument remind me of the common humanity, the common purpose that, amid the destruction and pain and loss of 9/11, was kindled and nurtured. It reminds me how the country came together in support and in compassion, across those false boundaries of class or race or religion or politics or region, to come together in recognizing our common humanity.

Unity, coming together, is not always easy. It can come from a tragedy like 9/11. It’s hard to sustain. It is hard to sustain. We humans are good at separating ourselves, or letting ourselves be separated, into different camps. For all kinds of reasons.

I want to recall this morning one particular instance of unity that happened on 9/11. Of course, we know the unity of the first responders that day. Brave, professional, trained first responders, more than 400 of whom gave their lives working together, in unity, to save so many others. We honor them today.

There were 40 diverse people who also found unity that day. The national memorial to United Airlines Flight 93 was just dedicated, two days ago, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There is a ceremony this morning as well, beginning at 945am, with the President and Pennsylvania governor attending.

On a clear morning 17 years ago today, seven crew members and 37 passengers boarded Flight 93 prepared for the early morning flight from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. Four of the passengers were terrorists. As we now know, four non-stop, coast-to-coast flights with full fuel tanks were targeted for attack that morning.

Three of those four flights departed on schedule, but Flight 93 was delayed more than half an hour due to morning traffic. At 8:46 am just four minutes after Flight 93 departed Newark, hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later hijacked United Flight 175, hit the South Tower. And 34 minutes after that hijacked American 77 crashed into the Pentagon. At 9:45 am the Federal Aviation Administration ordered 4,500 aircraft to land immediately at the nearest airport, an order never before given in US aviation history. By that time, though, Flight 93 didn’t obey the order.

The passengers and crew, forced to the back of the plane and told to be quiet, began making calls to report their hijacking. They quickly learned what was happening with other hijacked planes and realized that Flight 93 was part of a larger attack on America. As the new national memorial reports, this diverse group of people – students, working people, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, retirees – all brought together just by fate on one airplane, developed a plan and put it into action. They voted and decided on collective action.

Their collective efforts to stop the flight, shouts, calls to action, were captured on the flight recorder. To stop the passenger uprising, the terrorist piloting the aircraft began to roll and pitch the plane, and finally passing over rural Western Pennsylvania the terrorists crashed the plane rather than risk the passengers and crew regaining control.

The plane was believed to be targeting the US Capitol, 20 minutes flying time away, full of legislators and staff and visitors.

Because this group of 40 people, diverse, different, thrown together by terrible circumstances, because they unified, came together, and acted, Flight 93 failed to reach the terrorists' intended target that day. Many, many lives were saved by their courage and sacrifice. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, in unity, recognizing their common purpose and their common fate.

The beautiful new memorial just dedicated in western Pennsylvania centers around a 93-foot tall Tower of Voices, a monumental, musical instrument holding forty wind chimes, representing the forty brave passengers and crew members. The natural wind brings forth 40 individual chimes that harmonize together. It is a living memorial to their unity and their courage.

Extraordinary circumstances brought unity among 40 people from all walks of life on Flight 93. They acted with courage and determination, and saved lives. After 9/11 the whole nation unified in many ways. We grieved together. We prayed together. We hugged together. We were Americans together.

Unity is hard to sustain. It is hard to sustain. We are too easy to separate into this or that camp, into this or that team, by false boundaries of class or race or religion or politics or region. We don’t feel very unified these days.

May the Flight 93 story, May this monument in our own community, to 9/11, remind all of us, that we are indeed bound together in unity, in common humanity, on one planet. That our children’s future depends on all of us, showing compassion, each to each.

Following the lesson of those diverse, happened-to-be-on-Flight-93 passengers and crew, let us focus together on what matters most, and work in tandem to meet those challenges, with courage, and determination, and unity.

 

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