Almost one in four Americans weren’t yet born when the towers fell and the Pentagon was struck on Sept. 11, 2001. For them, the threat of terrorism has always been present, security always enhanced, and shoes always removed at airport security checkpoints.

I remember exactly where I was. It started off as such a normal Tuesday. Get the girls up and off to school, jump in the pickup, and flip on the radio. But then the reports started coming in …

A plane strikes the World Trade Center in New York City. A second tower is hit. The Pentagon, too. And then, that chilling moment when New York City’s streets fill with dust, the images of which can never be forgotten, the first tower had collapsed. Minutes later, we learned another plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The second tower falls. And America unites in grief, determination and prayer.

Many of us might still remember President Bush’s words just hours after: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America… We’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

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Sixteen years later, radical Islamic terrorists continue to make threats on this beacon of freedom — even waging an attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. ISIL, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and others have sought to expand their physical boundaries and the reach of their violent ideology. These groups are convicted to destroy, not only towers and embassies, but our people and values. They will not succeed. “[America] will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail” — a promise made by President Bush days after the attack and safeguarded by our men and women in uniform every single day.

It’s undeniable that individual Americans will always have ideological differences, but for those of us who lived through that day, the memory of Sept. 11 binds us together — that’s a message the next generation could benefit from hearing.

We were and continue to be the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. No one — not the terrorists who piloted those planes, not those who attacked our embassy in Benghazi, not those waging war in the Middle East today — will keep that light from shining.

Kristi Noem represents South Dakota in the U.S. House of  Representatives.

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