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CNN Exchange: Commentary

Pataki: Why we remember 9/11

By George Pataki
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Republican George Pataki is governor of New York.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The attacks of September 11, 2001, reshaped the face of the nation and the course of history. Our lives and the lives of those to come -- not just here in New York or the United States, but around the globe -- have changed forever.

The date, September 11, will forever evoke recollections of unimaginable tragedy, of lives callously lost and brutally cut short and of unspeakable horror and sorrow in the hearts and minds of all of us. We must never forget the depths of inhumanity to which terrorist fanatics are willing to sink in the name of their depraved cause as they seek to destroy the very principles of freedom and democracy on which this great nation was founded.

That is why each and every September 11, we as Americans pay tribute to those who lost their lives that fateful day. We gather in unity and dignity to honor the freedoms that we have fought for in the past, the freedoms our loved ones have died for, and those freedoms that we continue to fight for today.

Remembering that day is not a choice but our solemn obligation -- on September 11, 2001, there were 2,749 heroes lost; seven buildings destroyed and, with their collapse, 30 million square feet of commercial office space was lost or damaged; 60,000 jobs disappeared; 65,000 commuters were dislocated by the destruction; five subway lines and 12 subway stations were affected or closed; and 1.6 million tons of smoking debris filled the World Trade Center site.

In the following months, lower Manhattan continued to suffer additional losses. Commercial and residential occupancy rates dropped drastically, tourism evaporated, and the quality of life plunged. Lower Manhattan looked set to lose both its residential community and its position as the financial capital of the world.

But today, a mere five years later, Lower Manhattan continues on the path to renewal. Lower Manhattan has not only retained its distinction as the financial capital of the world, but has become the fastest-growing area in all of New York City. We are making significant investments to position it as the premier 21st century central business district -- a mixed-use community, vibrant day and night -- where companies want to locate, families want to live, and visitors come to enjoy.

For the first time in more than five years, the city's economic growth rate has exceeded the national growth rate, there are 10,000 more residents downtown, tourism is at an all-time high, and financial and insurance industries, which suffered the worst losses after September 11, are now leading the growth downtown.

On the World Trade Center site, all of the signature elements of the brilliant Libeskind Master Site Plan are under construction -- the Freedom Tower, the Memorial and the WTC Calatrava Transportation Hub, and we recently opened 7 World Trade Center, which is nearly 60 percent leased.

The Master Site Plan, shaped by an unprecedented public process, is on its way to bringing cultural and commercial space to the previously devastated site where state-of-the art transportation infrastructure is being created with a vast and fitting memorial as its centerpiece. A memorial that future generations will look at with pride and honor, knowing that we rightfully and respectfully paid tribute to all those lost.

As you recall September 11, always remember that we were attacked not for what we do wrong but for what we do right. Remember the spirit of that day -- the day America showed what makes us a great people and a great nation; the day the true character of our nation triumphed over unspeakable evil; the day that freedom and democracy prevailed yet again over oppression and tyranny.

What is your take on this commentary? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer. This article is part of a series of occasional opinion pieces on that offer a broad range of perspectives that express a variety of thoughts and points of view.

Your responses asked readers for their thoughts on this commentary. We received a lot of excellent responses. Below you will find a small selection of those e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling.

That was a day of such sorrow because so many lives were lost. It was also a day that we all came together as Americans and showed that we had became one. It didn't matter that we were different races and nationalities, because we were all Americans that were grieving and we still are.
Pamela Jones, Rossville, Indiana

With all due respect governor, is it not our foreign policies in the first place which help set in motion these horrible events on 9/11? Didn't we have enough warning from previous attacks (USS COLE, 1st Trade Center bombing, various U.S. Embassies) to possibly prevent this disaster? Also, isn't a bit hypocritical to be describing other foreign government factions as tyrannous, when we invaded Iraq and killed and continue killing hundreds -- if not thousands -- of innocent civilians?
Brian Hynous, Detroit, Michigan

This article displays a lot of my feelings. I appreciated the ending note that this tragedy happened because of "what we do right." Too often we are thought of as the "big bad bully" for stepping in to help and cowards for not helping. Thank goodness someone has stated that we are trying to do our best.
Stephanie Gregory, Mendon, Michigan

The terrorists were out to destroy "our freedom and democracy"? That sounds like the tired old rhetoric of Bush who knows no other refrain. They seem more inclined to wreck the western economic engine that exploits poorer nations and supports their arch enemy than caring anything about freedom or democracy here.
John Finn, Clifton Park, New York

I'm a former NY state resident. I like George Pataki, and think this commentary is succinct in its information and yet brings an emotional response that is appropriate. Well put, Mr. Pataki.
Peggy Wickham, Raleigh, North Carolina

As someone who remembers Pearl Harbor, I am devastated to see no mention of them in the media. I believe if we do not remember these attacks on our precious country, we will allow them to happen again.
Bettie Brodka, Media, Pennsylvania

I have to disagree with New York Gov. Pataki on his statement that as we remember 9/11, "remember we were attacked not for what we do wrong but what we do right." I strongly believe we were attacked solely because of our government's foreign policy before 9/11/2001. Our government is an out of control monster, taking our taxes and doing illegal things all over the world without it's citizen's knowledge, much less their approval.
Chris Henry, Los Angeles, California

We, as Americans, have all suffered. We have all felt the heartbreak of loss -- in lives, jobs, or just the betrayal of being attacked on our own shores. Today is not a day to place blame on governments, or even our enemies. Today is a day to remember the heroes of that day, the lives and loved ones lost, and to dedicate anew that every day we live on, being Americans, we have already defeated hate.
Kenneth Rowland, Fort Worth, Texas

It is every American's obligation to never forget what happened on September 11, 2001. It was a horrible realization of the depths of the hatred that a select few in the world have for the United States, and a terrible tragedy. We have shown, as a nation, that though these attacks occurred, we are strong and resilient. We will not crumble under terror or tyranny! Thanks for a moving commentary on 9-11.
Tonya Gerhardt, Graham, Texas

"Remember that we were attacked not for what we do wrong but for what we do right." This comment is ignorant. To think that America has never made a mistake in its policy is so....stereotypically American.
Blake Marsden, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

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