Transforming the memory of that horrible day 19 years ago into a reminder of a cause greater than ourselves

By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

The first memory I have of that fateful day was the ocean-blue September sky. The incredible beauty would soon be haunted by the ugly image of two planes, tearing through the Twin Towers of New York.

As I watched the second plane strike, I knew instinctively that the United States was under attack. The nightmare only deepened when I learned of the plane striking the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I began worrying about the safety of my own family as I came to grips with the reality that life as I knew it would never be the same again.

The horrors of that day 19 years ago, known forever as simply 9/11, fill me with incredible sadness. So many precious, unrepeatable lives were lost that single, defining day. But I am also struck by the heroism of those courageous souls who sacrificed their lives to save others—firefighters and other first responders who dared to run toward the havoc and heartbreak in a desperate attempt to rescue their fellow countrymen. Of the nearly 3,000 victims killed that horrible day, 412 were first responders. 

In my adopted home of Pennsylvania, September 11th has special meaning. For it was in a field in Somerset County, PA that Flight 93 crashed that day. The plane had been commandeered by terrorists with the likely intent of crashing into the White House, but some incredibly brave passengers managed to stop the attack.

Deena Burnett recalls how her husband, who was aboard the doomed flight, described the situation aboard the aircraft as he spoke on the phone to her.

“We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the airplane.” Deena begged her husband not to place himself in any more danger, but he responded, “If they’re going to crash this plane, we’re going to have to do something.”

Meantime, a Verizon Airfone operator, Lisa Jefferson, recalled her discussion with another passenger, Todd Beamer.  

Jefferson could hear the havoc aboard the plane, including the screams of the flight attendant. She offered to connect Beamer with his wife, who was pregnant with their third child. But Beamer did not want to upset his wife. He told Jefferson, though, that she could call his wife if something happened.

Jefferson could hear Beamer asking someone else, “Are you ready?” Then came the immortal words, “O.K. Let’s roll.”

A group of courageous passengers then sacrificed themselves in order to prevent the terrorist attack from becoming even worse. Their sacrifice is a testament to the human spirit, and the dignity and inherent value of every single human life. Theirs is a heroism we can all learn from.

In fact, in their honor, may each of us perform a life-affirming act this week, demonstrating the incalculable worth of each and every human being. Let us never forget the valor of the heroes of 9/11, or the pain suffered by the families they left behind.

In this way, we can transform the memory of that horrific day into a reminder of a cause greater than ourselves, the protection of innocent human life—a cause worth dedicating our lives to, even in the midst of tremendous hardship and challenges. America never stands taller than when it works to preserve the gift of life.