When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville 18 years ago, our world was thrown into chaos.

Almost 3,000 people died from those terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The scenes were horrendous as survivors and rescue workers emerged from the wreckage coated in a ghostly gray ash.

The flames, the crumbling towers and the bodies falling to the ground are etched into our memories from either experiencing the tragedy that day or viewing the countless video replays over the years since.

Then, oddly, there was an eerie peace we remember, too.

We remember an empty, quiet sky, a calmness on city streets. Pedestrians nodded their heads as they passed each other on the sidewalks, drivers waved each other to please go first at intersections and doors were held open as we passed through.

People found their own ways to help.

Some were able to travel to New York or Washington to help dig through the rubble or hand out food and water. Estimates say almost 10,000 of them have been diagnosed with cancer related to conditions in those days, and more than 2,000 of them have died.

Others were deployed to Afghanistan immediately or enlisted over subsequent years as a way to serve their country. More than 2,300 U.S. service members alone have died in the 18 years since, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Others lined up to donate blood. In New York, 36,000 units of blood were donated to the New York Blood Center alone.

Others prayed together in churches, synagogues and mosques.

Students held fundraisers and wrote letters.

Flags of stars and stripes waved over businesses and homes.

Quietly, we united, and individually we each knew what we had to do.

The victims from that day, those who died in the years since, U.S. service members, first responders and volunteers will be remembered appropriately across the country today.

While we remember those people and their efforts, we hope and pray we all remember the unity and peace that emerged from the chaos and tragedy that day and the immediate days that followed.

We were not Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, radicals, traitors, racists, black, white, brown, illegal, immigrants, aliens, Christians, Jews, Muslims, old, juveniles, he, she, gay, transgender, dangerous or enemies.

We were united, Americans and allies alike.

Loss of that unity and respect for each other is something to mourn, too.

This editorial was written by Editor Dave Bohrer of the Meridian, Miss., Star. Reach him at dbohrer@themeridianstar.com.

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