Seven years ago tomorrow terrorists flew two hijacked passenger jets into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people. On that same day, another hijacked airliner was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and another crashed in a field near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after passengers wrested control of it from the terrorists who sought to fly it into another target in the nation's capital.
The damage to the Pentagon, the nation's defense headquarters, was repaired in a little over a year. A memorial is planned for the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 met its end and last Tuesday, a giant steel beam was put into place at the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood. The 24- foot-long, 97,770-pound beam, manufactured by an American steel company in Columbia, South Carolina, is the first piece of what will become the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
As is the case with catastrophic events, some memories of Sept. 11, 2001 have been covered over by the scar tissue of time and others remain as fresh and raw as if they had happened yesterday, and no two of the people affected directly or indirectly by 9/11, that is, every one of us who could see or hear or in some way experience that September Tuesday morning, remember or grieve in exactly the same way. A universal opinion, however, seems to be that the events of 9/11 should be commemorated with more than rhetoric. The long-awaited memorial at the Ground Zero site will offer tangible proof that we will honor the dead of 9/11 in our hearts forever.
When completed, as well as a museum dedicated to fighting terrorism around the world, the eight-acre memorial site will include two reflecting pools set within the original footprints of the towers and a plaza with 400 trees. The plan was agreed upon after lengthy debate. From what we have heard since the proposal was decided upon, we think we are fairly safe in postulating that the memorial and museum represent a consensus of opinion. This is entirely as it should be.
The process of deciding upon the plans for the memorial represents what is finest about our democracy. Everyone who cared to voiced an opinion and all those who put forth proposals or expressed opinions about those proposals were heard. The final design was agreed upon by consensus. No one person held absolute sway over the plan and what would be included in it. The plans for the memorial and museum are both a reminder of our democratic traditions and a guide to ensuring that those traditions will continue.
As we near the seventh anniversary of 9/11, we do well to keep in mind that the memorial on the site of the World Trade Center has come about as a result of the democratic process. It was that process— rule of the majority as expressed through the voice of the people—that the murderous terrorists who seized the planes sought in vain to destroy. They did not succeed then. They will not succeed now. They will not succeed in the future. That steel beam, a proud product of American workmanship, represents our respect and regard for those we lost that day seven years ago and our firm belief that democracy and the freedom of all our citizens to determine the course of their own lives, using all the opportunities available to them, prevails now and will continue to do so long into the future.