Events that unfolded on this day 20 years ago united Americans just as times of tragedy had done in the past.

Our nation rallied together, joined by a common cause — to endure and overcome the loss, sorrow and grief brought upon this country by an act of terror.

The initial shock of seeing two commercial airliners crashing into the World Trade Center and a third crashing into the Pentagon faded as we watched first responders dig through the rubble of two towers that once dominated the skyline of New York City for survivors and victims. As those images and the stories of heroes aboard a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania who foiled an attempt to crash into another U.S. target were seared into our collective conscious, the nation’s grief “turned to anger and anger to resolution” that justice be done in the name of the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2011.

These evil deeds brought our nation together. We were all shocked, angered, scared and worried. But we had each other. We leaned on each other. We prayed with each other.

American flags sold out all over the country because everyone wanted to show off their patriotism. It was one thing that we all could do — show the world that we were not defeated.

We must remember that since 9/11, another 7,000 U.S. military and Department of Defense civilians, and untold thousands of others have lost their lives in a war that ended just days ago.

Three days after the deadliest terrorist act carried out on American soil, the Rev. Nathan Baxter, during a sermon at the Washington National Cathedral, prayed “for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security.” Baxter, who was serving then as dean of the cathedral, prayed for “wisdom of the grace of God, that as we act we not become the evil we deplore.”

We have a choice today, 20 years later, as we honor those who were lost to that tragedy to become an America that stands united or to become the evil we deplore. With hope those who were lost did not die in vain, we hope the Rev. Baxter’s prayers will be answered.

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