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Honor those lost on Sept. 11

Today, we will pause to remember and pay tribute.

Memories of that sunny Tuesday morning 12 years ago may no longer occupy our thoughts as they once did, but we will never forget.

The series of four coordinated terrorist attacks launched that morning resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent victims and changed the world forever.

But it may never be possible to compile an accurate and complete list of victims. In addition to those who died in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, Penn., we must include the families, friends, co-workers and countless others who knew and loved and have mourned those who were lost.

We cannot forget the first responders who accepted the odds against them and did their jobs anyway. Many were lost that day, and others continue to suffer from ongoing health problems as a result of their dedication to duty.

And we must remember the many brave Americans who have fought and died or suffered wounds in our nation’s wars against terrorism that followed the attacks.

We must remember to include all of these individuals in our thoughts today, for a commemoration of the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11 must ultimately be a tribute to the American spirit — that undeniable force that brought our nation together in the wake of our greatest tragedy and made us stronger than ever before.

Americans stood together with bowed heads in the ashes of Sept. 11 and we leaned on each other for support. As the days passed and the true enormity of what had happened settled in, we found a new resolve.

We vowed to follow the examples set by the passengers and crew of the fourth hijacked jet that was directed toward Washington but crashed in that Pennsylvania field because those aboard fought the terrorists.

Americans will pay tribute in many ways today — they will pray and remember friends and loved ones and innocence lost. They may attend special services, visit memorials, light candles, hold vigils, ring bells or simply observe a moment of silence.

But no matter how we observe this important day, we do so as a free and independent nation, committed to the ideals of liberty and freedom that have guided many generations through countless hours of darkness and uncertainty to triumph against overwhelming odds.

We continue to stand together, united against those who have and would attack us in attempts to destroy our way of life.

We will never forget those who have died and remain willing to make the ultimate sacrifice today. But more importantly, we will always remember why Americans are willing to put their lives on the line to stand up for what is right.

As we remember, we will not dwell on the darkness of Sept. 11, but instead turn our thoughts to renewal, to building a brighter future for our families, our fellow Americans and those who will follow. We will pledge to seek solutions to the problems that confront us and renew our vow to continue to build a stronger country and a safer world.

That will be a fitting tribute to all the victims of Sept. 11 and an ideal way to honor their memories and continue their legacy.