Patriot Day Tributes

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Washington, September 11, 2017 | comments

As we mark the 16th anniversary of the vilest terror attacks on American soil, we can’t help but remember where we were, what we were doing, and how we felt when we learned a plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

We were all watching the news, stunned, disbelieving what was happening at the twin towers, when Flight 77 whisked across the skyline of our Nation’s capital and crashed into the western façade of the Pentagon, causing death, destruction and a mass evacuation of government buildings, landmarks and public spaces. As we watched the events of that dark day unfold, we were awestruck, horrified, and left without words. For Tennesseans Bob Weaver and Mary Morgan Ketchel, however, it was all too real. As America was under attack, they were in the Capitol building amidst palpable fright, chaos, and confusion.

We must never forget that day, those loved ones we lost, their families, and those brave heroes who ran into the fire. In that spirit, I asked Mary Morgan and Bob to share their memories of 9/11 and how the events 16 years ago impact their lives today.

Each year in September, the National Automobile Dealers Association hosts a Washington Conference for the elected leadership of the various state and metro automobile and truck dealer associations across our great nation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began like so many other conferences. It was a beautiful fall morning. We had an 8:00 AM meeting with Senator Bill Frist at his 385 Russell Senate Office Building office. Afterwards, we made the trek over to the House side. We had just sat down with Congressman Van Hilleary in the Cannon House Office Building when an aide rushed in and announced Members of Congress were being evacuated. We were asked to leave, and when we walked outside we could see plumes of smoke from the vicinity of the Pentagon.

There was pure chaos. No cell service. Traffic jams unlike any I've ever witnessed. No one knew if more attacks were coming. And then in almost no time, there was nothing. No movement. The normal hustle and bustle two blocks from the White House had vanished. No sounds, except the occasional armed personnel carrier full of locked-and-loaded soldiers, and fighter jets scrambling and patrolling the skies. Flights were cancelled. Airports shut down. It was surreal.

There was a visual, harsh realization: Terrorism knows no borders. Suddenly, those late-night news stories from Europe and the Middle East took on a whole new meaning. It could happen here. It did happen here. American lives were targeted and taken. I remember the bravery and leadership of President George W. Bush and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I felt a national resolve permeate our country. Partisan politics were cast aside. As Americans, we were one.

But over time, those memories faded. Emotions cooled. Issues spotlighted our differences. We, as a people, allowed ourselves to become divided.

So on days like September 11th, Patriot’s Day, we need to pause and reflect on what our nation has stood for, fought for and, sadly, died for. Then we need to thank God for his many blessings, love our neighbors as ourselves, and recommit ourselves to love and care for one another. 

-Bob Weaver
President,Tennessee Automotive Association


I had just returned from my honeymoon, married for all of three weeks, when the 9/11 attacks happened. My job was director of constituent services for Senator Bill Frist, and on that morning I was in the Capitol building hosting his weekly "Tennessee Tuesday" breakfast.

The call went out to evacuate members, staff and guests from the Capitol compound, and as the Senator was swiftly escorted from the room our guests turned to me for guidance. We quickly exited the building into a frantic crowd. There was screaming, and it was rumored the White House had been hit and was burning. The plane that struck the pentagon first skimmed very low over the Capitol lawn as it approached its target. It was a chilling experience.

Over the hours and days that followed, we watched as our nation came together facing the tragedy. Each day we awoke to news of loss and inspired reports of rescue. Stories of everyday heroes emerged. The country rallied behind our President, the city of New York and its leadership on the ground with police and firefighters.

In Washington, DC where I worked each day, life was different. It was a city changed, a country changed. And we continue to live in a new era. Our children, ages 8 and 9, only hear the stories. They have been taught to reverently recognize the date September, 11, 2001. We feel it is important to help them learn about the tragedy that day and the ensuing war on terror.

I have always felt immense patriotism, but from that day forward the meaning of service to country became more profound in my mind and heart. To thank a service man or woman in uniform became an honor to me. And it will forever be.

-Mary Morgan Ketchel


As America’s passion to serve has been reawakened by the hurricane destruction in the South, I am reminded of the thousands of volunteers who rose up in response to the 9/11 attacks. America has always shone through the darkness of evil. In its wake, Americans, time and again, have proven to be the most resilient, caring, and patriotic people.

Which is why I’m heartened that since 2009, Patriot Day has also been observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. The day is meant to inspire Americans to unite and engage in charitable service in memory of the nearly 3,000 people who died, bonded in tragedy.

I am encouraged—and hope to encourage you—to do at least one good deed on the 16th anniversary of those horrific attacks to honor the victims and responders. It will do our hearts and country good.

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