September 11 is a solemn anniversary. Eighteen years later, we still remember the toll from that terrible day. Nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives in the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and United Flight 93-but every American experienced the pain of loss that day.

Just as we mourn the innocent lives lost, we also remember the heroism of our first responders, who ran toward danger and death to help their fellow Americans. Out of the ashes of that terrible tragedy arose a strength and unity that the whole world came to admire.

September 11 altered the course of our nation's history in a blaze of fire and smoke. And for so many Americans, it altered the course of our lives. Our fighting men and women deployed overseas just weeks later-and remain in the fight today.

So many Americans joined them enlisting to defend our nation. Young kids who witnessed firefighters rush into the burning towers grew up and themselves joined units with old-fashioned names like ‘Engine' and ‘Ladder'. A generation of intelligence officers dedicated themselves to preventing another 9/11. They have and they still do.

And our lives continued to be altered, because the consequences of September 11 are with us still. The attacks of 18 years ago continue to claim new victims, as first responders and others succumb to injuries and illnesses that trace back to that morning. The Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us are bloodied yet undefeated, while the Taliban terrorists who gave them safe haven threaten to regain control of Afghanistan.

Most tragic of all, our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines continue to fall in the line of duty in defense of our country. Just last week, Army Sgt. First Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan. September 11 is his story, too. A story of valor and sacrifice.

So the story of September 11 continues to unfold, many years after the fact. May its memory strengthen our resolve to continue fighting the enemies of freedom, and may we never, ever, forget.