Mayor’s Comments at 9/11 Ceremony

Posted: September 11, 2020

For various reason, since that deadly attack on our country on September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m., our town has not had its own formal ceremony of observance to honor the memory of those who we lost on that day.

When I discovered this, I decided to change that. And so today, I welcome you to Vernon Township’s first ever 9/11 Observance Ceremony.

We remember, and will never forget, the nearly 3,000 lives that were taken so cruelly on that day. Not only do we remember those nearly 3,000 that were murdered on 9/11, we also honor the courage of those men and women, those first responders, who put themselves in harm’s way in an attempt to save people who they never knew.

A staggering approximately 35K plus of those first responders who put themselves in harm’s way in an attempt to save people who they never knew are currently suffering with 9/11 related illness. Some have died from these illness and others continue to die each month. So I also consider them to be victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The 19 years since the 9/11 attacks occurred may seem like a long time to some of us; but for those families who on 9/11 lost a loved one; for those who lost a piece of their hearts, I imagine that the day of 9/11 can seem like it was just yesterday.

Perhaps to them it’s the memory of a last kiss given to a spouse; or an unresolved or silly argument with someone else who was dear; or the last goodbye to a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, or a child.

Sometimes I wonder just how some of those lost lives might have unfolded if they had not been murdered; just how some of their dreams might have taken shape.

As I ponder these and other disturbing mental and emotional things that come to my mind about this day, I am also mindful of the fact that there are no words that I or anyone else could offer here today, that could ever truly erase the pain of the lost that’s felt by the individuals who loved those whose lives were taken away from them on that dreadful day.

So as I think about what should at least be a consideration; what should at least be a key question that we should ask ourselves today, is how can we honor the legacy of those who were lost on 9/11, as well as those that we continue to lose as a direct result of 9/11?

We have seen one part of the answer to this important question in the actions and efforts of almost two generations of American men and women in uniform who have risked, and some who are still risking, their lives to help keep us safe. It was through them that we as a nation were able to deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, the individual who gloated about successfully planning, organizing, and directing the 9/11 attacks.

We have also seen part of the answer to this question in the actions and efforts / of almost two generations of professional American diplomats, intelligence professionals, and homeland security and law enforcement professionals—all who have stepped forward to serve and risk their lives to help keep us safe.

And it’s in part because of the fact these and other Americans have stepped forward, that those followers and sympathizers of Osama bin Laden, and others in countries who wish our nation harm, know that at this time in our country’s history, they are not able to militarily defeat a nation as great and as strong as the United States of America.

However, they have put into effect a sinister and diabolic strategy, aimed at mutilating our emotions and our thinking, to turn us as Americans against each other as a way of defeating us from within.

This sinister and diabolic strategy uses fear, negative social media tactics, and untruths masquerading as facts, to divide us along lines of religion, race, gender, color, ethnic origin, and political affiliation.

And it is with great, great regret that I say, that at this point in time, their strategy seems to be working.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that a record high of 80 percent of Americans perceive our nation as being dangerously divided. And a great majority of historians say that today America is more divided than at any point in time since the great Civil War, which resulted in at least 620K of the approximate 4M men who enlisted on both sides in that tragic war being killed.

So today, I suggest to you that a key part of the answer to this important question of how do we honor the legacy of those who were lost on 9/11, as well as those that we continue to lose as a direct result of 9/11?—a question that I believe is clearly before us as a nation today—

I suggest to you that a key part of the answer to this important question lies in our willingness to use the free will that the Creator has given us, to opening up our hearts and our minds.

And we can open up our hearts and our minds by rising above our taught and inherited negative attitudes and pre-judgments about others who don’t look like us; who don’t worship in the same faith as we do; who don’t speak the same language as we do; who are not in the same political party as we are; or who are different from us in other humanly ways.

And by taking the type of positive actions that will ensure that our nation continues to make progress towards becoming that one nation, under God, that’s indivisible—meaning that can’t be divided or separated—that offers liberty and justice for all!

There were four aircrafts hijacked by terrorists on that fateful day in September—American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93.

Of those hijacked aircrafts, only one, United Airlines Flight 93, did not reach the hijackers’ intended target. The target was believed to be either our nation’s capital building, or our nation’s White House.

That hijacked plane did not reach its target because the 31 Americans aboard this plane had learned through phone conversations that on that same morning, other terrorists had hijacked other planes and had used these planes to destroy the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

These 31 Americans decided to work together to ensure that the terrorists who had hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, would not use this plane to wreak the type of destruction our nation’s capital building or White House as they had on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

Even though they knew that they were probably going to die, they didn’t view themselves in terms of their religion, their race, their gender, their color, their ethnic origin, or their political affiliation; they viewed themselves as Americans who were determined to ensure that their final act would be on behalf of protecting this great country that the Creator has blessed us with.

And they took the brave and almost inconceivable action of attempting to wrestle control of the plane from the terrorists, with the result being the plane crashing into the ground in Somerset County, PA, near the town of Shanksville.

As individuals; as a nation; we have the opportunity each and every day to behave in a way that honors the legacy of those who were lost on 9/11, as well as those that we continue to lose as a direct result of 9/11. All that we need to do, is to decide to put that opportunity into action.

I end my comments by first asking the Creator to please bless the memory of the 9/11 victims; and second, to be merciful to those who are struggling personally with the memory of those who were lost, and who we are still losing, as a result of the 9/11 attacks; and third, to bless our town of Vernon Township; and fourth, to bless the United States of America!

Thank you.

Howard L. Burrell, Mayor