Remembering the Impact Beyond 9/11

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8:45 AM eastern daylight time: the first of four hijacked passenger jets crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Twelve years ago today I was lying in bed, sleeping peacefully at that moment, when the phone rang. My sister was calling me from New York. Through tears she implored me to wake up and turn on the television. We watched together in horror as terrorist actions unfolded before our eyes. My cousin would later hike her way out of Manhattan, through chaos of shattered people, twisted rubble, and descending white ash.

groundzero-001More than likely, every American can recount where they were and what they were doing upon first hearing of the devastating attack. Al-Qaeda changed the landscape of our country. According to an Independent News report, “more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 lost a parent on September 11, 2001.” The average 9/11 kid was just nine years old. Their fathers and mothers were rescue workers, firefighters, police officers, airplane passengers, military members, Pentagon and World Trade Center workers – each unknowingly engaged in a fatal occupation on that heartbreaking day.

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation regarding the crisis in Syria. As he spoke of the “basic rules [being] violated, along with our sense of common humanity,” my mind flashed back to the images of 9/11. The President delivered his resolve: “After careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.” My heart sank for the thousands of children who have lost a parent due to acts of terror, here at home and at war.

More than one million children have an active duty parent, and more than 700,000 of them have experienced one or more deployments since September 11, 2001. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has reported 6,755 war casualties, resulting in 4,864 children experiencing the death of a parent. Last night when The President spoke of pressure on Assad to give up his chemical weapons, the opportunity for U.N. inspectors to report their findings, and efforts to rally support from our allies, I wondered how many people heard disconcerting familiarity in those words … while envisioning a repeat of history.

The clean-up and recovery efforts at Ground Zero lasted more than a year with firemen-001crews working around the clock. The Science Daily reported that “a study of nearly 13,000 New York City fireman and emergency personnel exposed to dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings experienced a decrease in lung function capacity equal to 12 years of age-related decline during the year following the 9/11 disaster.” Paradoxically, those consequences mirror the duration our nation has been engaged in this war on terror. According to a recent CNN poll, the vast majority of Americans are opposed to military action in Syria. Yet, in closing remarks last night, The President “ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep pressure on Assad, and be in position to respond if diplomacy fails.”

Today marks twelve years of visible and invisible consequences of war — permanently embedded into our nation’s fabric. Thousands of families have adapted a new “normal” in moving on, while still grieving lost and injured loved ones. Our military families continue to exemplify courage, strength, and resiliency, despite the continual call to sacrifice. Today, my prayers are wrapped around those families, and our President, as we move forward as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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