By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Seventeen years ago, the lives of every American changed. The date of September 11, 2001, split the nation’s history into before and after and altered the course of America. Now, every year on 9/11’s anniversary, Americans take a moment to remember, to unite, to mourn and to teach.
Milwaukee County Remembers 9/11 took place at the War Memorial Center overlooking Lake Michigan. Inside the atrium, veterans, active duty members, elected officials, civilians and more gathered to honor the fallen.
“We live in the land of the free because of the brave,” said Governor Scott Walker during Milwaukee’s 9/11 memorial service.
Throughout his speech, Walker urged the crowd to never forget 9/11 and the impact it had on the nation’s history. Over the years, he said, memories fade but the ones whose lives were lost that fateful day will never be forgotten. In total, 2,996 people died that day.
To remember those who died, wreaths of flowers were laid in the pool of the eternal flame. As each wreath was set in the water, uniformed personal saluted. Wreaths were placed for military members, firefighters, law enforcement, first responders and civilians.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Walker recalled the unanimous message that spread through the nation: “united we stand.” It served as a reminder to both citizens and residents and as a message to those who oppose America’s ideals.
Like Walker, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said, 9/11 is the day that should always be remembered. This nation and its people were attacked over an idea, Abele said. The idea being “One Nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” that’s what was attacked, he said.
“This country on our worst day is the greatest country in the world,” Abele said.
He went on to say, that when he looks at Milwaukee’s horizon and past the glistening waters of Lake Michigan he sees hope. Despite their best efforts to eradicate America’s rights like freedom of speech or freedom of religion, those liberties remain in place today.
Mayor Tom Barrett told the crowd that those who lived through 9/11 have an obligation to pass it on to the generations to come. For some, it’s a memory but for others, it’ll be a history lesson. It also serves as a reminder for all to protect the liberties and freedoms that are associated with this country.
Americans need to remember those acts of bravery he said. But, he added they also need to remember how they united after the attacks. Barrett recalled standing on the steps of the Capitol in Madison, with both Democrats and Republicans. That’s never happened again, but it should he said.
“As Americans, we’re stronger when we’re together,” he said.
As the ceremony drew to a close with a rendition of God Bless America, a sense of solemnity lay over the crowd, but there was also a flicker of hope for a brighter tomorrow.