On a clear New York morning, 21 years ago, the world changed.
For those of us old enough to remember the attacks, we can still vividly recall where we were and what we were doing on that dreadful day.
Many Australians were asleep when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.
As news spread around the world via live broadcasts, in Australia, some of us were awake or roused from sleep to witness United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower seventeen minutes later. It was a moment of profound dread – the realisation this was no accident; that America was under attack.
And it got worse with the news of a third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, having impacted the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. And a fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, having crashed inverted in a Pennsylvania field after valiant passengers attempted to retake control.
Despite the devastation of 9/11 and pervasive melancholy of its aftermath, the tragedy brought people together, with Americans proudly flying their national flag on their cars and houses. The United States was bruised, but not broken; a country aching, but unified.
Today, as we did on that dreadful day, we think about the first responders: the paramedics, firefighters and members of the law enforcement community who sacrificed their lives trying desperately to save others. We think about the families whose loved ones didn’t make it home that night. And we think especially about the ten Australians who were among the almost 3,000 innocent people killed.
Post-September 11, terrorism has affected us in a similar way to the nuclear fears that hung over the Cold War generations, or indeed, our current generation with its concerns about the heightened risk of conflict in our region. The unthinkable implications of ever-present threats have become engrained in our psyche.
We may have become more cautious and vigilant as a result of 9/11, adapting as we must. But we have also become more united in our efforts to eradicate evil, wherever it lurks and whatever form it takes.
On this, the 21st anniversary of September 11, we remember those who lost their lives and all those still living with the loss of loved ones.
In so doing, we reflect on our fortitude as free people and the enduring strength of our values. We can overcome unimaginable tragedy and rise to meet the most trying of challenges as long as we continue to confidently and courageously carry the flame of liberty and justice.
Importantly today, we thank those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns fighting terrorists and helping to prevent another 9/11. We are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice.