From my blog of 12 years ago:
My Cousin: My Brothers and Sisters
Tuesday, September 11, 2001. My beloved cousin, Rich Nielsen, died. Not in New York. Not in Washington, D.C. And not in Pennsylvania. Cancer cells had been attacking his brain for some time. He knew death was imminent.
The same day, thousands of others died in a number of terrorist attacks. One moment they embraced the promise of a clean, fresh day; the next, they were either dead or dying.
Within moments, people raced toward the disasters, committed to helping in any way possible. In New York, Police, firefighters, the military, and other entities and individuals rushed to help. Many of these people died, as well. Those who did not continued putting their lives at risk, desperately seeking any sign of life in the gray, sooty rubble.
Onlookers helped rescuers with no thought of return. Hospital and emergency personnel began caring for the wounded and dying. Nearby restaurants began giving food to the rescue crews. People nationwide began donating blood, money, even organs.
These murdered people were--in the broadest sense--my brothers and sisters. The rescue teams, anonymous people on the street, restaurant owners, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, EMTs, and many others are also my brothers and sisters.
Those involved in the three rescue activities will live the rest of their lives with memories too horrible to bear. We must honor these people who put the needs of others ahead of their own, and in so doing paid a great price.
On September 11, many people died believing in freedom as a way of life. How can we not, then, as a country, fight for everyone's right to live in a country where freedom is essential?
Richard Boynton Nielsen's long, hard battle ended on September 11. His obituary will probably be lost in light of other events. The others who died that day in terrorist attacks didn't have a choice. The most significant obituaries the United States can write for these people will be reflected in its actions and resolve as a nation and as the leader of the free world.
Terrorists' evil acts can never destroy the resilience and courage of America's people, where we are all brothers and sisters. And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!