Eleven years ago today, tragedy struck when terrorists commandeered airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon.
The American public and the world sat paralyzed in surrealistic horror as they witnessed people jumping from buildings - some hand-in-hand to their deaths - as the nation watched and waited for an answer to what had caused this unspeakable horror.
Even as the tragedy unfolded, though, Americans began to counterattack right here on our own soil as the passengers on United Flight 93 thwarted terrorist attempts to take jet another aircraft to God knows what fate. Look at a map of where Shanksville, Pa., is located, and it's easy to see that the intended target was either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. Most likely, those passengers gave their lives to save our government and our country.
That was only beginning. Brilliant students dropped out of college to enlist in the military and finish the fight in Afghanistan from where it originated.
Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals safety, forfeited a multimillion-dollar contract and the celebrity of the National Football League to become a U.S. Army Ranger. He was killed in Afghanistan during a firefight near the Pakistan border on Thursday.
The heroism of Iowans the next few years was equal to that of soldiers in any war in our nation's history.
On Nov. 13, 2004, while serving as the company first sergeant for Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Bradley Kasal, born in Marengo, accompanied members of 1st Section, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon, during the Battle of Fallujah. Kasal and another Marine came under heavy rifle fire and were both severely wounded in the legs, immobilizing them. When insurgents threw grenades in an attempt to eliminate the wounded Marines, he rolled on top of his fellow Marine and absorbed the shrapnel with his own body. Kasal then refused medical attention and evacuation until the other Marines were attended to. Although his wounds were severe, Kasal continued to direct Marines and shout encouragement until the building was clear. On May 1, 2006, Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on that fateful day.
On Nov. 25, 2005, Greg Tull, 20, of Pocohontas was killed when an improvised explosive device blew up next to the Humvee he was traveling in near Hit, Iraq.
Tull dropped out of South Dakota State University to volunteer for Operation Iraqui Freedom in November 2004.
The day before he was killed, Tull laid down a withering fire from an M-60 machine gun to allow his fellow soldiers who had been pinned down to find cover. He was killed days before his scheduled return to the U.S.
Tull was posthumously promoted to sergeant from his former rank as specialist. He also was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Mississippi Medal of Valor and the Combat Action Badge.
Salvatore Giunta, originally from Clinton, was the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest honor for military valor, for actions that occurred after the Vietnam War. Giunta was cited for saving the lives of members of his squad on Oct. 25, 2007, during the War in Afghanistan.
Many other Iowans have given their lives in the War on Terror. While Sept. 11, 2001, was 11 years ago, we should never forget that date. While we must allow our nation to heal, we cannot allow ourselves to forget what so many of our best and finest gave.