(Congressman Joe Heck) – We all have our own personal stories about how September 11, 2001 affected us – where we were, what we were doing. For my generation, I’m sure this will go down as our “Day of Infamy.” My story is as a first responder and someone who grew up in New York.
As a responder to the World Trade Center site, I drove up the New Jersey turnpike, seeing the gaping hole in the skyline where the trade towers once stood, now a cloud of dust still hanging in the air illuminated by the bright lights set up for the rescue operations. I crossed through a desolate Holland tunnel, because all traffic had been shut off to New York City.
I saw the scattered debris field and twisted wreckage of what was two of America’s tallest buildings. I walked through the coating of pulverized cement lying on the ground like a blanket of fresh snow. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 showed us the darkest side of humanity.
But they also showed us the brightest side.
I’ll never forget the hundreds of people lining West Street every day holding up signs of support and thanks, cheering the rescuers as they traveled to and from the site to conduct response operations. Or the restaurant owners who were closed down for business to the public, but opened to serve hot food to the responders who were surviving on cold sandwiches and MRE’s.
Or the thousands of men and women who came to New York City to help: Red Cross volunteers, medical professionals, public safety personnel, constructions workers and heavy equipment operators, among them.
Let us remember those who perished that fateful day, and their families.
Let us strive to recreate and maintain the unity we felt as a nation during the weeks that followed.
And, let us never forget that we live in the greatest nation on this Earth.