By Rep. Elise Stefanik
On September 11, 2001, as the world watched the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, our first responders, military, and the American people rallied behind the American flag and vowed to never forget. As we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of this tragic day, we must work to uphold that promise.
When the hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, nearly 3,000 souls were lost. The tremendous impact of these losses was felt throughout America, especially in my home state of New York. Immediately following the first plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center, first responders in and around New York bravely ran towards the collapsing buildings. New York lost hundreds of first responders who sacrificed their lives to save others. Despite each year that passes, our thoughts and prayers forever remain with the victims and survivors in New York and nationwide, keeping their memory alive by ensuring future generations know of their sacrifice.
In order to preserve that memory, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure that the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program is fully funded and that every first responder and every survivor is fully taken care of.
While we look back on this day with sorrow, we must also remember how the resolve of New Yorkers and all Americans was strengthened. The best of America responded to these attacks, showing the world that the foundations of our democracy will not be shattered.
In New York’s 21st district, dedication to the service of our country and appreciation for our brave patriots is felt in all aspects of life. Our district is home to Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, which saw the most deployments of any US Army Division since 9/11. Throughout 20 years of combat, 10th Mountain Division soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan over 30 times to defend our national security and protect the American values that the 9/11 attackers so desperately tried to quell.
This is just one aspect of Fort Drum’s lasting impact on our nation’s military, which is why each year, I work hard to give Upstate New York and the North Country a seat at the highest level to ensure that provisions in the annual National Defense Authorization Act are used to strengthen our military and support our servicemembers. As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I proudly led initiatives to ensure our servicemembers are supported. We worked to secure the largest pay raise in over 20 years for our men and women in uniform. Additionally, I led provisions that will ensure soldiers at Fort Drum are eligible for cold weather pay, allow Gold Star spouses access to commissary and recreational facilities, and improve childcare accessibility for military families. Our district houses large numbers of former law enforcement officers and first responders who have chosen to call Upstate New York and the North Country their home. The men and women in our military have served valiantly to protect and defend our nation for over twenty years since the 9/11 attacks. We must continue to work to serve them and honor them in our community of patriots.
As we remember the September 11th attacks as well as the twenty years of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, we must highlight the sacrifices of both our first responders and our armed forces who answered the call to defend our nation and preserve the beacon of freedom that terrorists have so desperately tried to put out. Let this day serve as a constant reminder that in the face of terrorism, the strength of America’s freedom must always prevail. May God bless those who lost their lives and their families on September 11, 2001, may God bless our veterans and military families, and may God bless the United States of America.