18 years ago, terrorists declared war on America with four coordinated attacks against the United States on the morning of September 11 - taking the lives of 3,000 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and destroying both World Trade Center buildings and severely damaging the Pentagon.

For many of us watching live television news on that Wednesday morning and witnessing those horrific events unfold right before our very eyes, not only shocked the world, but radically changed our lives forever.

“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children,” President George W. Bush stated during his Veterans’ Day, 2001, “Tribute in Light” memorial to the World Trade Center event.

The stories of heroism and selfless acts of courage have and will continue to inspire all of us. We remember the numerous police and fire department first responders who rushed in toward danger to save lives in New York; the military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.; the courageous group of airline passengers who rushed the cockpit of Flight 93 (“Let’s Roll,”), somewhere over western Pennsylvania, thwarting what was to be another attack on our nation’s capital.

For all which was witnessed that day, what came forth was a new group of American heroes who met the challenge and saved countless lives – a spirit which unites all of us and one which will never be forgotten.

Since that time, many more lives have perished from 9/11-related cancers and respiratory illnesses. On Monday, July 29, 2019, the President signed into law the Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

The VCF Permanent Authorization Act extends the VCF’s claim filing deadline from December 18, 2020, to October 1, 2090, and appropriates such funds as may be necessary to pay all approved claims.

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11,” former President Barrack Obama said in a 2011 radio address.

On Wednesday, September 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and Carry the Load (CTL) will partner on a national day of service which includes headstone-marker cleaning and grounds beautification at 40 national cemeteries across the country. Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent is the Washington State cemetery participating in the program.

To commemorate the heroism of September 11, 2001, and by honoring the sacrifices of our local veterans buried throughout the lower valley - an idea for residents to consider is volunteering an hour on this National Day of Service in cleaning those military headstones and markers in need of a helping hand.

Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com

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