TEN YEARS ago today, terrorists sought to bring the United States to its knees, and instead brought the nation to its feet.
Those who sent the hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001, envisioned a horrific event they hoped would haunt the American psyche and wreck the economy. If time had stopped when the planes crashed, the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell or the Pentagon burned, the conspirators would have won.
Time did not stop.
Firefighters, ambulance crews, police officers and others who responded to the World Trade Center led many people to safety. They continued their work even after the first tower collapsed. The world watched in awe, and mourned the dead. Americans lauded the heroes.
United Airlines Flight 93 passengers who learned about the other hijackings through cell phone calls determined they would not allow that plane to be used as a weapon. They broke into the plane's cabin, seeking to retake control from the terrorists. The plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., preventing a likely attack on the U.S. Capitol or the White House.
More stories of bravery were added to the American tale.
The nation's defining moment can be found in the response to the 9-11 attacks, not in the attacks themselves.
Former Eagle Scout Ryan Keller set up a 9/11 memorial at Quincy City Hall several years ago and now is serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Today a message from Keller will be shared at a dedication ceremony for an artifact from the World Trade Center that will be displayed near the memorial. The 15-foot long, 7,000-pound steel structure was part of the antenna tower on World Trade Center Building 1 and supported an antenna manufactured by Harris Corporation and Master Foundry of Quincy.
Quincyans also have been busy picking up free posters emblazoned with the message "Never Forget" at Central Fire Station. The posters show the New York City skyline overshadowed by a U.S. flag. JK Creative Printers produced 30,000 of the posters in honor of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. The company printed 75,000 posters soon after the attacks, with the theme "God Bless America."
"I want people to know that Quincy, Illinois, hasn't forgotten," said Mike Nobis, president of JK Creative Printers.
Other ceremonies across the nation will honor the veterans and first responders who seek to keep Americans safe. The site where the twin towers once stood will show signs of rebirth. The American spirit will be celebrated.
Viewed from a distance of 10 years, it is the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that is most striking. This nation was united in ways that had not been seen since the months and years after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
The lesson learned after Sept. 11 was that a united America can meet its toughest challenges.