September 11, 2020
By: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when terrorists hijacked four airliners in order to commit the worst act of terrorism in American history.
Nearly 700 New Jerseyans—147 from Monmouth County alone—lost their lives that day.
No one remembers the shock, horror and numbing sorrow more, however, than the families and close friends of the victims.
Because it was a surprise attack, there was no chance to fight back that day although when Todd Beamer and other passengers learned what happened to the Twin Towers, Todd famously said “let’s roll” and they attacked the terrorists on board the flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
Who can forget the courageous first responders running up the stairs of the burning buildings—with total disregard for their own safety.
On the morning of 9/11, I got a mere glimpse—I say again, a mere glimpse—into the sense of horror suffered by the victim’s families when I couldn’t reach my own brother Tom—an American Airlines 757 Captain who often piloted Flight 11 from Logan to LA, the flight that crashed into the North Tower.
Evacuated from the Capitol and stuck in traffic within sight of the burning Pentagon, cell phones were all but gridlocked. About noon I got through. He and his flight attendant wife Sandy were safe but were in anguish because they knew the pilots and crew on board Flight 11.
For 19 years, the families and friends of those who died that day and since have had to endure their loss and a broken heart.
Both then—and now 19 years later—words are inadequate to convey our empathy for those who died and for the victims’ families.
For many, their faith in God has helped them survive and overcome.
Some, including the Jersey Girls—four amazing women who lost their husbands at the World Trade Center—pushed the Congress to create the historic and transformative 911 Commission that was led so effectively by former Governor Tom Kean.
As you know, 19 years later, the consequences—the ongoing loss of life and health attributable to 9/11—are even worse than anyone could have ever imagined.
Congress enacted the World Trade Center Health Program Fund (WTCHP) & Victims Compensation Fund to provide health services for responders at the three crash sites, and others in the vicinity of the WTC site for health conditions related to toxic exposures from the attacks.
Of the 105,272 individuals enrolled in the program—9,157 are from New Jersey alone—and a total of 19,150 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with cancer and more than 3,500 have died after September 11th .
Rigorous testing and early interventions offer some hope to those manifesting illness.
So today, we remember and honor all the victims of 9/11—past, present and future.