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There are moments in American history that are forever in our minds, some stronger than others depending on your generation.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon come to mind.

Sept. 11, 2001, should be on that list, too.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, cowards of the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against U.S. targets. A pair of them struck the World Trade Center in New York City, while a third hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania thanks to brave passengers of United Flight 93 who took back the plane from terrorists and prevented it from striking a D.C. landmark, allegedly the White House, the U.S. Capitol or Camp David.

More than a decade-and-a-half later, we’ve persevered. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum stands where the Twin Towers once stood. The Pentagon has been repaired. The leader behind the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, has been killed.

But time doesn’t heal all wounds — the ramifications of 9/11 are still felt to this very day.

To date, more than 3,000 innocent people were killed as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That number includes those on the hijacked planes, those trapped inside the World Trade Center and so many brave male and female law enforcement officers/firefighters that rushed to the scene to help as best they could.

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Yes, 17 years seems like forever ago. On Sept. 11, 2001, we were still a month away from the release of the first iPod, there was no such thing as “butt-fumbles,” AOL Instant Messenger was our social media (not Facebook), “Bling-bling” was an expression and airline security wasn’t so stressful for people traveling. Those who just became eligible to serve our country were just youngsters in 2001. High school students were just babies or not even born yet.

A lot has happened (good and bad) and a lot has changed since then. That’s all the more reason we as Americans today need to take a moment to reflect and educate younger generations about what happened 17 years ago.

We owe it to all of the men, women and children who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in its aftermath. We owe it to their families, friends and other loved ones. Those lost were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, many were Americans, but above all, they were INNOCENT people. It could have been any one of us on those planes, in those buildings or responding on scene.

We must not let what is now referred to as Patriot Day come and go like any other day and help preserve the memories of all the innocent people killed just like we document other significant dates in history. Patriot Day has occurred for the last 16 years on Sept. 11 after President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law to make it a national day of mourning and first proclaimed it for Sept. 11, 2002.

Kudos to those in Columbus who lined various streets in town on Tuesday with American flags in memorial. We must also be sure to educate younger generations about the day’s significance so it isn’t lost on them. Don’t leave it to schools to do the work – it’s an American responsibility.

Those who we lost are gone, but we can make sure they’re never forgotten.

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