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Ketchikan is a long way from New York City.
Still, many Ketchikan residents can remember the events that occurred in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, as though it were yesterday.
It was very early in the morning here in Ketchikan when, far across the continent, a jetliner was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.
A second jetliner was flown into the South Tower 17 minutes later.
Word began to spread quickly in the First City as people began switching on their television sets to live coverage of the horrors unfolding under clear blue skies in New York and elsewhere.
A third jetliner was flown into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., followed by the rumble and roar of the North Tower coming down 29 minutes later.
Between the times of collapse, a fourth jetliner crashed in Pennsylvania after an onboard confrontation between passengers and hijackers.
We recall Ketchikan as quiet that morning, with most of the attention focused on developing events. Everything else seemed muted, even the cruise ship passengers of the day. With all civilian aircraft grounded, the ordinary buzz of floatplanes was conspicuously absent.
The rest of the day was filled with questions of why, who and what would be next. How many people were killed or injured? How could this happen in the United States?
We later would learn the plot was carried out by al-Qaeda, and that the terrorist action resulted in nearly 3,000 people dead and more than 6,000 wounded.
What we knew for certain on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, was that the Lower Manhattan skyline of New York City had two immense gaps where skyscrapers once stood; and the ragged ground beneath was strewn with smoldering debris and the remains of many innocent people.
The banner headline in the Sept. 12, 2001, edition of the Ketchikan Daily News said “Terror comes to the U.S.”
Americans understood that we were not immune from the ill intent of others. The terrorists had won the moment, highlighting that a nation as big, wealthy and powerful as the United States has its vulnerabilities.
We don’t know, however, that the hijackers and their backers expected the galvanizing effect that 9/11 had on the American people. We remember the wave of resolve that moved across our nation in the days that followed. Here in Ketchikan, there were events of reflection and memoriam during which you could feel citizens setting aside their differences to acknowledge a national tragedy and prepare to confront a common foe. There was, for a time, a unity in these United States.
On this Sept. 11, it’s good to reflect back on that time. We should mourn those whose lives were lost. We should remember that there are many in this world who would do this nation harm.
We should remember well a time when Americans of all creeds and ethnicities stood shoulder to shoulder in support of the United States and its shining ideal of one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.