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9/11 will live in infamy

The images of the two horrific assaults-by-air against the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, remain as vivid today as during any time in the last 18 years.

Many Americans still feel shaken by the realization of how unprepared this country was in terms of quashing the terrorist operation before it could begin.

No doubt many people still are fearful that such incidents could happen again.

But the terrible memories of Sept. 11, 2001, continue to extend beyond the trade center destruction. Shortly after the two trade center towers were struck by airliners, another plane plowed into a side of the Pentagon, and it was determined that a fourth hijacked airliner was flying toward Washington, D.C.

Still, this part of Pennsylvania had not been impacted directly, but that changed quickly.

At 10:03 a.m., the fourth plane — United Airlines Flight 93 — crashed in a field near Shanksville, Somerset County, thrusting the six-county Southern Alleghenies region, which includes Blair County, into the world spotlight.

The air assaults that day claimed more than 2,000 lives and, what had been virtually unthinkable up to that time, the attacks caused millions of Americans to begin doubting the preparations and capabilities of this nation’s security and intelligence apparatuses.

Just like the date Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan conducted a surprise attack on the United States’ Pearl Harbor naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 11, 2001 also will be forever regarded as “a date which will live in infamy” — the description voiced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the U.S. was declaring war on Japan 78 years ago.

9/11 memorial events will be held in New York, Washington and Shanksville today, as well as in numerous other communities across the country.

For the second time in three years, Vice President Mike Pence will head the list of dignitaries at the Flight 93 site. The vice president will be accompanied by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

For Pence, the bravery of the Flight 93 passengers in rising up against the four terrorists on board always will have special meaning. Pence, a congressman at the time, along with other members of Congress, were directed to flee the Capitol because a hijacked plane — Flight 93 — reportedly was heading to Washington.

During the 2017 9/11 memorial event, Pence said he always would believe that he and many others in the Nation’s Capital were able to get home that day because of the courage and sacrifice of the Flight 93 passengers.

Today’s memorial observance will be special from Blair County’s standpoint because the 93-foot-tall Tower of Voices, built by local company L.S. Fiore and dedicated during last year’s Flight 93 ceremony despite not yet having all of its 40 chimes in place, is ready today to fully honor all of the passengers who paid the ultimate price on Sept. 11, 2001, trying to thwart the intentions of the four terrorists.

Today then is a day to remember, but it also can be described accurately as a day of triumph.

Despite the terrible destruction and loss of life 18 years ago, the goal of the terrorists — to cause a grave setback to America from which it might be difficult to recover — was an abject failure.

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