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No one will ever forget that September morning 10 years ago when they heard the news: America is under attack. On that fateful day, four passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field in Pennsylvania – taking nearly 3,000 innocent lives in the worst attack on our country since Pearl Harbor. In a matter of minutes, lives were forever changed as firemen rushed to answer the cries for help, brave citizens risked their lives to save others, and final phone calls were made to loved ones.

When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, I felt a tremor as my office on Capitol Hill shook more than three miles away. In the moments that followed, members of Congress and their staff were evacuated out of fear that the Capitol would be the next target.

A few weeks after the attack, I traveled to New York to witness the destruction at Ground Zero firsthand. Set up around the site were several long tables where flowers, photos and prayers in tribute to the fallen had been left. One note caught my eye that had been written by a child on spiral notebook paper. It read: “Dear Daddy – How much I miss you. I hope heaven is a wonderful place. I hope I live a life good enough to join you there someday – Amanda, age 12.”

One of my own daughters was 12 years old at the time, so Amanda’s words left a lasting impression on me. Our federal government’s primary responsibility is the protection of its citizens, and the events of 9/11 were a painful reminder that what happens beyond our shores can directly impact our nation’s security. Standing among the smoldering wreckage at Ground Zero, I resolved to work toward the day when there would never again be notes left behind by children like Amanda.

On October 7, 2001, our men and women in uniform launched an attack against the terrorists who were responsible for the devastation on 9/11 – al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. At home, our nation’s citizens rallied behind our troops, with a renewed sense of patriotism and confidence in the principles of freedom and justice, upon which our country was founded.

Our troops are still defending our country and liberties today. In April of this year, I had the opportunity to thank them for their service when I traveled to Afghanistan for the third time since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. We are blessed to live in a nation where individuals volunteer to defend our country and way of life – no matter the cost.

A week after I returned from Afghanistan, the world learned of a successful American operation in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. His death was a historic success in the War on Terror and spoke to the resolve of our men and women in uniform and the intelligence officers who worked relentlessly for that moment.

Ten years have passed since that September morning – and on this year’s anniversary, two memorials will be dedicated to honor the thousands who were killed. In Pennsylvania, the first phase of a National Memorial has been completed, with the names of the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 inscribed on the wall of the Memorial Plaza – built along the flight path of the plane. In New York, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum stands on the site of the former World Trade Center complex and features two waterfalls and reflecting pools – each about an acre in size. Bronze walls border the reflecting pools and bear the names of those who were killed in the terrorist attack on February 26, 1993 at the World Trade Center and the names of all the men, women and children who were killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

As we gather this year across the country to remember those who lost their lives, let us never forget the events from that day, nor those who have since given their lives in defense of our country. And let us remain committed to preserving this nation for the sake of the next generation – so they too can pursue the American dream with freedom and liberty.