June 24, 2018
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Ten years later, a stronger America

By Olympia J. Snowe, Special to the BDN

We are all a different people as a result of the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred on our soil 10 years ago. The events of that day are forever ingrained upon the landscape of our consciousness. In the days since then, our country has shown resilience in healing our wounds without ever trying to hide the scars left by senseless acts of terrorism.

On this Sept. 11, as in all that have preceded it, we mourn the loss of all those who innocently lost their lives, including the eight Mainers who were taken from us all too soon. We remember the heroic acts of valor that will always distinguish the men and women of 115 different nations who went to work that day, or boarded a plane, or rushed to the aid of strangers whose lives they believed were as vital as their own — and never returned home.

And nowhere was that more evident than with the first responders who, in the face of unspeakable adversity and peril, heroically ran toward the very dangers others were desperately trying to escape, placing their lives in harm’s way in the most courageous and valiant of endeavors. It is in their honor that we strive every day to make our nation, and the world, a safer and more peaceful place for generations to come.

This weekend, I will join three special and outstanding Maine patriots who have performed the most extraordinary of deeds on behalf of the nearly 3,000 men and women killed in the terrorist attacks, the brave uniformed men and women who have kept our homeland safe every day since, and the good of our nation as a whole.

These patriots — the extraordinary Freeport Flag Ladies — Elaine Greene, Carmen Footer and JoAnn Miller — have waved American flags on Main Street every Tuesday morning, rain, snow or shine, since 9/11 in tribute to our brave servicemen and women, our first responders and the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

These renowned Flag Ladies have stood with the presence and exuberance of not one, but three Statues of Liberty having come to life for the single purpose of paying rightful homage to those who have sacrificed for all of us.

Now a fixture on Main Street in Freeport and in the hearts and minds of the thousands of families, troops and passersby they have touched, their commitment to the memory of that day and love of country is precisely what binds us all together as Americans. Indubitably, their stalwart dedication to our flag has helped heal our nation by harnessing the best of who we are and what we stand for, whether in the best of times or when facing adversity.

Amid the sadness and sorrow we feel for loved ones lost, this 10-year commemoration will also summon feelings of love for America, which speaks to the inescapable belief that our strength as a state and a nation have always emanated not from our seats of government in Augusta or Washington, but from the people themselves.

Sept. 11 remains a snapshot of horror, but it has also become a portrait of consummate humanity. If the events of that day laid bare the unimaginable cruelties of which humankind is capable, it also etched forever within our minds the heights to which the human spirit can rise — even and especially in the face of mortality. For out of the rubble rose our resolve, out of despair grew our determination and out of the hate that was perpetrated upon us proudly stood our humanity.

And so, on this 10th anniversary we venerate the American spirit that is stronger than stone and mortar, tougher than steel and glass and more permanent than any pain or suffering that can be inflicted upon us.

Olympia J. Snowe is the senior senator for Maine.

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