Today we remember the horrors and heroism of Sept. 11, 2001, one of the darkest days in this country's history.

On this day, 18 years ago, 19 members of al-Qaida hijacked four commercial airliners in coordinated suicide missions against New York City and Washington, D.C. Two planes struck the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan, eventually causing the buildings and another in the complex to collapse. Another airliner crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth, which was on route for the United States Capitol building, crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., after its passengers stormed the cockpit, overtook the terrorists and foiled the plan.

Some 3,000 people died — including more than 400 firefighters, paramedics and police officers. Two people who died that day were from Calcasieu Parish — Russell "Russ" Keene III, 33, a native of Sulphur, who died at the World Trade Center, and Kevin Yokum, 27, of Lake Charles who was killed during the attack on the Pentagon. Keene was an equities analyst working on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower. Yokum was a Navy petty officer second class.

Their losses brought the dreadful events in New York, Washington. D.C., and Pennsylvania to our very doorsteps.

Those who were killed were husbands and wives, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends. Some 20 percent of Americans know someone who had been killed or injured in the attacks, New York magazine has reported.

In the 17 years since that fateful day, a new One World Trade Center tower has risen from the ashes at ground zero. The not-so-subtle message to the rest of the world is that the U.S. is not impervious to wounds, but that this nation cannot and will not be defeated.

As Bob Schieffer, host of CBS-TV's "Face the Nation," has said, "In the end (Sept. 11) brought out the best in us, which hadn't happened in a while but it was a hard way to do it and we owe it to each other to never let such a thing happen again."

On this anniversary of 9/11, let us remember those victims who lost their lives, pay homage to both military and civilians who keep vigil to ensure there is no repeat attack, and pray this country's political and military leadership won't let it happen again.

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