On Sunday morning, our nation will pause to remember and reflect upon the tragedy known primarily by its date: 9/11.
Those of us old enough to remember that Tuesday in 2001 will never forget where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. It had the same impact as such other pivotal moments in history, from the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy's assassination to Neil Armstrong's walking on the moon.
While New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., were understandably the hardest-hit regions in our country, every state was affected in some way.
For Kentucky, a victim in the plane that struck one of the Twin Towers had lived here for a time, and a victim at the Pentagon was a Rowan County native.
One of the passengers on the plane striking that building, meanwhile, was the son-in-law of someone who had worked for the General Assembly.
There is another Kentucky connection to that day. The flag in the now-iconic photo featuring several firefighters raising it at Ground Zero originally came from here. It had been taken from a boat that, until the late 1990s, had belonged to a business developer here in the state who had bought the flag from a Barren County salesman.
Many may not know that Ground Zero is just a short walk away from where President Washington was first sworn into office and where the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights were introduced.
Speaking of American flags and President Washington, that day is also the anniversary of the first battle in the American Revolution in which our country's flag was carried. It is also the anniversary of the last battle of that war, the siege of Fort Henry in 1782.
The date has two other key historical connections as well. On Sept. 11, 1609, the explorer Henry Hudson first sailed his ship by Manhattan, and in 1941, construction on the Pentagon began that day.
Although there is anger and sadness as we think about the events that happened 15 years ago, we also are proud of the heroism we saw take place, from the first responders who lost their lives trying to help to those passengers on the plane over Pennsylvania who fought back and kept it from targeting another site in Washington.
That commitment to the greater good continues today through the actions of hundreds of thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line for us, from those serving our country to those who keep us safe here at home.
The General Assembly has worked over the years to honor all of their contributions and legacy, and added to it this year by including emergency medical workers among the groups eligible for a lump-sum benefit from the state if they are killed in the line of duty. A separate law will make it possible for firefighters' families to claim this benefit if the firefighter dies from certain types of cancer linked to their profession. Five years ago, meanwhile, the General Assembly declared that Sept. 11th would always be known as "9/11 First Responders Day."
A lot has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, but the important things have not. We may have our differences from time to time, but at our core, we are still Americans and we are still willing to defend the values that bind us. No event will ever change that.