It has been 18 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Nearly two decades since hijacked airliners were flown into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., thanks to the heroic efforts of passengers who had become aware of hijackers’ deadly intent.

A high school senior born this day knows of no other reality, no other world order. The “war on terror” has always been a background constant for them, much as older Americans have for decades lived with the reality of a “war on drugs.”

For Americans, 9/11 was the most significant date of the century. In a sense, we can be thankful there has been no more heinous event in recent history. Whatever its cost, we must presume the war on terror has prevented another attack of this magnitude.

Time has passed, but our thoughts should be with those who died this day 18 years ago — and to the families whose loss was a deep, personal tragedy.

In our letters column today, former New York firefighter Ralph Boeringer of Punta Gorda recounts the story of firefighter Stephen Stiller, who, fully dressed in gear, ran from his home firehouse through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel when he heard the first reports from the Towers. He was killed, one of 343 firefighters and a total of 412 emergency workers killed that day.

Appropriately, Stiller, et al., were honored Saturday during the ninth annual Remember the Fallen 5K/10K sponsored by North Port Fire Rescue Honor Guard. Many firefighters ran in full gear, as Stiller had.

By now, we all should have memorized the number 2,977, which is the official 9/11 death toll. More of first-reponders have died over the years from illnesses associated with the toxic conditions at the Twin Towers site. According to CNN, the 200th person recently died from cleanup-related causes. Salute them also, and pray for their families.

Another number to memorize: 8:46 a.m., the time American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. By that time, many Americans were tuned in to the news on TV, so they watched it live — something they’ll never forget.

The Pentagon was struck by American Airlines Flight 175 at 9:37 a.m. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville at 10:03 a.m.

By tradition, we honor the memory of all with a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. today. Take the time, please. Always remember.

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