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Eighteen years ago, terrorists tried to destroy our way of life by carrying out one of the most heinous attacks in modern history. It was the day we were attacked by violent extremists on our own soil.

Loved ones, and an entire country were left mourning the loss of innocent life we had just experienced. One of our own families in Bakersfield lost Betty Ann Ong, a flight attendant who was on American Airlines Flight 11 that departed from Boston the morning of September 11th.

Like thousands of other relatives who received the gut-wrenching news that day, Betty Ann’s family was in utter shock and disbelief.

With time, they came to learn the crucial role Betty Ann played on that flight in her final moments. She was the first voice anyone on the ground heard that the flight had been hijacked.

She was calm, collected, and direct when she delivered the news to the ground reservationist.

Betty Ann, like all 9/11 victims, first responders, and our men and women in uniform, are the epitome of American exceptionalism. They embody the qualities that represent the very best of our country… and in the aftermath of that fateful morning, we experienced firsthand, how no matter the circumstances, we will stand together as the American family and fight evil head-on wherever it lurks.

A steele girder from the WTC in New York is part of the Bakersfield Fire Department 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists thought they would destroy our spirit, break down our resolve, and forever change the very idea of what it means to be an American. Instead, the world saw a country come together in a tremendous showing of unity and patriotism.

Members of Congress started today by holding a moment of silence at the Capitol.

There is no question, we will never forget what this day means and will always remember to teach of the lives we lost. In turn, let’s never forget that we have an obligation to not just remember their stories and their legacies, but we must continue to do everything possible to ensure Americans are able to live a safe and prosperous life.

The new World Trade Center complex in New York

The new World Trade Center complex in New York