KOPP: Remembering our heroes and their sacrifice

The Tower of Voices memorial dedicated to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. It was dedicated this year. (Photo by U.S. National Parks Service)

By Rep. Chuck Kopp, Anchorage.

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Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage.

17 years ago today I awoke at 5:20am to a phone call. I was a police officer at the time and was expecting it to be police dispatch directing me to respond to an incident. It was not.

I will never forget the fear in my cousin’s voice as he said just four words “turn on the TV.” I did. The World Trade Center towers were ablaze. All the major networks were solely focused on coverage of what we would soon learn was a coordinated terrorist suicide attack on our homeland.

American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 had already crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. At 5:37 a.m. Alaska time American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. About 22 minutes later the World Trad Center south tower collapsed, followed shortly by the north tower. Reports started coming in of another plane crash in Pennsylvania and we soon learned that United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed in Somerset County, Penn., killing all onboard.

For so many of us, everything in life stopped that day. Every priority changed. Our families, our community, our state and our country was overwhelmed. The death and devastation were incomprehensible. Our future uncertain.

In the days that followed we learned about our enemies and most importantly, our heroes. The brave passengers and crew of Flight 93 who fought valiantly to retake control of the aircraft. The plane crashed, but it never reached its intended target of destruction. The hundreds of firefighters and scores of other police and emergency responders and volunteers who gave their lives successfully evacuating thousands of people from the World Trade Center structures prior to their collapse. And there were so many more heroes on that day. They never quit till their last breath. That’s honor.

The days that followed saw our whole country come together, maybe as never before. We needed each other. We were suffering and grieving a great loss, and we saw life as it is—fragile and brief. Political animosity was nearly absent and we enjoyed a brief season of true community when we were gentle with our words, kind in our conduct, and gracious in our attitudes.

So to the moms who said their last “I love you” to their little boy, to the dads who gave their precious daughter one final hug, to the many good people who took that last phone call from a loved one trapped on a hijacked plane or in the World Trade Center, to the flight crews and passengers who fought to the death to thwart an unimaginable evil, and to all the firefighters and police officers who had their lives tragically cut short that morning…

You absorbed a terrible blow for all of us. We could never earn or pay back such a sacrifice. Today we remember you. We honor you. We thank you. May your memory, service and sacrifice be forever blessed.

And to all the men and women of our Armed Forces, and their families who have sacrificed so much to protect us from further harm words fail. You have always been faithful to us, may we be faithful to you. We’ll just have to live out our thanks.

Representative Chuck Kopp

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