WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Governor Andrew Cuomo stood before a crowded White Plains Library gallery Sunday and asked New Yorkers to take two lessons away from the ground zero artifacts before them while commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"There are two obligations, as New Yorkers, on this day,” Cuomo said. “The first is to remember and part of remembering is to honor. Honor the people we lost ... Remember them. Honor them. Cherish them. Comfort them. Comfort their families. The second obligation is to teach."
Cuomo explained that his daughters, who were four and six when the 9/11 terrorist attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000, didn't initially understand the severity of America's recent wars.
"One of my daughters said, 'Well, there has always been war.' Yes there has always been war, but this is a different kind of war. This is an ever-present war. This is a war without declaring war," said Cuomo. "We’ve had wars before, but not here, not in our backyard where we have a feeling of vulnerability."
Most speakers at the library's "New York Remembers" exhibit urged parents to teach younger generations about 9/11 to ensure that sacrifices were not made in vain and Americans remain prepared for similar attacks. White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, New York State Senators Robert Castelli (R – Bedford) and Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D – Yonkers), and White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong all echoed Cuomo in encouraging New Yorkers to remember the bravery and unity roused after Sept. 11, 2001.
"We could’ve started to point fingers,” Cuomo said. “We could have turned that beautiful thing called diversity that this nation does so well and started to find the enemy within the diversity. People didn't go to that instinct. They came together in a way that they never came together before... They didn’t see white skin and black skin and brown skin and Christians and (Jews). They didn’t see upstate and downstate. They didn’t see rich and poor. They just saw we’re Americans. And we were attacked. And when you attack one American you attack all Americans."
As White Plains honored 9/11 as one of 30 ground zero displays setup across the state, local politicians and community leaders selected Chong to pay tribute to all past and present first responders who keep New York safe.
"Three hundred and forty-three fire department members, 23 New York City Police Department members, 60 Port Authority Police Department members, and one EMS technician gave the ultimate sacrifice. But then there are so many of us that continue to pay the price with nightmares and medical conditions … Speak to any one of us 10 years later (or) to our current personnel, and not one of us would do anything else differently today," Chong said. "Instead of speaking on our sorrow, I wish to speak of the heroism and of the American Spirit. On that darkest day of my life, being a member of the New York City Police Department and spending time in both towers as they burned, I witnessed amazing feats of heroism."
A decade later, Chong said he was proud to declare that America has recuperated.
"I can stand here, as a proud survivor, and a public servant, and say, 'New York has recovered.' Lower Manhattan is more vibrant than ever. The Freedom Tower will be bigger than ever. America has recovered. The Pentagon has been rebuilt," he said. "More importantly the terrorist networks are on the run. The demon responsible has been brought to justice, by the best military force in the world."
How have you honored the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11? What do you think Americans should keep in mind? Email thoughts to email@example.com and we'll include your responses in future coverage.