Pedestrians in lower Manhattan watch smoke billow from New York's World Trade Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Credit: Amy Sancetta / AP

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Never forget. Those words, so often said in connection to the 9/11 attacks, reverberate loudly as the U.S. marks the 20th anniversary of that unforgettable, unfathomable day.

In truth, there is little chance that many Americans would ever forget what we witnessed and experienced 20 years ago. Not the people who survived the horrors at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Not those who lost family members and friends there or in the fields of Pennsylvania. Not the first responders who rushed to help. Not those of us who watched horrified in our homes, classrooms and offices. Not the millions of American military members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq after the attacks.

Each year, we pause to remember the nearly 3,000  lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. There has been no shortage of reflection on the importance of the 20th anniversary and what it means to different people, and rightly so. In that spirit of remembrance, we decided to take a look back into the Bangor Daily News archives from the days after the attacks, and revisit how readers reacted to those horrific events.

Enshrined in a digital time capsule of old newsprint, we found offers to help, caution about how a wounded nation might respond, and prayers for the innocence of a young child shielded from an unsafe world. Each of these following letters to the editor were published in the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 13, 2001 under the headline, “Readers reflect on tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

Sherman Mason of Bangor: “To all the firefighters, emergency medical services, police and their families in New York: I am so sorry for all the events that have taken place. My heart is breaking and I wish I was there to help everyone in any way I could. I am a firefighter-paramedic with the Bangor Fire Department. I was crying most of the day, especially after seeing the first tower collapse.

“If we can come down there and help, please let us know; if some of the families need a place to stay, let us know. I will make every effort humanly possible to help.”

Renee Speh of Milford: “In the aftermath of Tuesday’s tragedy, I urge all of us to remind ourselves of what we are as Americans. We are a country based on principles of freedom and of welcoming people from all nations.

“Let’s not practice racial profiling based on theories of guilt about the terrorist attacks. Let’s not blame individual American citizens or visitors who physically resemble those who may have masterminded this event. Let them remain free from persecution; our energy is needed elsewhere.”

Christine Anderson of Lincolnville: “I call on Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Reps. Tom Allen and John Baldacci to use their collective voice to urge reason. I hope they and all of the other people who represent us will choose to take slow and measured steps in order to ensure that we as a nation, in turn, are not bringing about the same loss of innocent life and grief in the hearts of survivors to other parts of the world.”

Karen Benson of Enfield: “In between shocking news coverage of death and destruction and my work, I checked the clock to see how long it would be before I could pick up my daughter from day care. My daughter is an innocent 4-month-old whose biggest concern was a wet diaper, hugs and smiles and her next feeding.

“I wondered if I had made a mistake bringing her into this world. I wondered how I would ever be able to explain to her how it is that human beings can differ so extremely in their beliefs that they cause others horrendous pain. I needed to see that she was safe. She welcomed me with her usual sweet smile and I could tell she had experienced another wonderful day blessed by the excellent care of her provider. She did not know fear, hate, loss and terror.

“She was experiencing only love and acceptance. I longed for the days when I was naive enough to think this was all that was required to save the world. The events of the day had not yet touched her life and I said a prayer for one small miracle.”

There is much to reflect on and remember 20 years after that fateful day. These letters offer some meaningful snapshots into how those horrific events were felt, and felt deeply, here in Maine.  

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...