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SIMPSON: Looking back on 9/11; looking ahead to new challenges

The observance a decade after 9/11/01 went much as expected. We each had our memories, some flew flags, rang bells, prayed, met at public gatherings.

We recalled the four coordinated suicide attacks against our nation and remembered all who died or suffered loss of loved ones in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Penn.

Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. Among them were 19 hijackers, 55 military personnel, 200 people who jumped from the Twin Towers and citizens from other nations.

It was a shocking, sad day as these people and 411 emergency responders, 341 firefighters and two paramedics died doing their duty.

Here is how events unfolded. At 8:46 a.m. American Airlines flight 11 hit the North Tower. At 9:03 a.m. United Airlines flight 175 hit the South Tower. American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. and United flight 93 was brought down before it reached Washington in a field in Shanksville, Penn. Everyone remembered the bravery of passengers aboard this airliner.

Much has happened in the ensuing years. We have thwarted other plots to do us harm. We have met al-Qaida's terroristic threats head on. Now some are coming from places like Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Iraq. Al-Qaida remains a dangerous enemy in spite of Osama bin Laden's death.

Where was I 10 years ago on 9/11? Working security in a Newton County Superior Court. On a brief break I called my wife and heard her tell me she was watching TV and an airplane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

Was it an accident or what? We didn't know until events unfolded. Another plane hit, another and another were involved in an attack on America. Suddenly we were at war. Violent extremists were killing Americans and we knew we were facing new challenges. The events were bizarre.

My co-workers and I sought out a TV set. We needed more intelligence so we could communicate with other agencies and people in the community. We did what we could to ensure public safety.

It was serious. The president was in a White House bunker. Human tragedies were happening before our eyes. Smoke and dust covered the area around the Twin Towers as they fell to the ground. We were proud of the responders and all who called upon inner strength to save lives and protect freedom.

Our carefree days gone, we moved forward into an environment of terroristic threats. We were adapting and finding new ways to confront our enemies. We sought to disrupt, deter and prevent any more 9/11s from coming to our shores. Our vigilance has paid off because we remain united in meeting new challenges posed by Islamist fanatics plotting to destroy our freedom. We move forward into another decade which we hope will be more peaceful than the last. See something suspicious -- say something.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.