State Leaders Gather to Reflect on 9/11 - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

State Leaders Gather to Reflect on 9/11

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Twelve years after September 11, Virginia's leaders say we should never forget the day America was attacked, or those who continue to protect it.

"We remember those images on TV," Governor McDonnell told a crowd outside of the state Capitol Wednesday. "People understood that America was actually under attack."

McDonnell gathered with state leaders and state employees Wednesday for a moment of reflection. At 9:37 a.m. - the same time American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon - the Capitol Square bell tower chimed four times, for each of the four planes hijacked 12 years ago.

Of the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the attacks, 184 men and women perished inside the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.

"We lost 184 people that day, a good number of them from Virginia. Military, civilians, first responders," said McDonnell.

State Secretary of Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security, Terrie Suit, was driving north to Washington when the Pentagon was hit.

"We looked up, and there was a plane flying ahead of our car," said Suit. "We heard the impact and saw the fireball, and it was just, it was one of those things that you can't believe you really saw."

Twelve years later, Virginia's leaders remember those lost and still fighting. Fifteen-thousand troops from the Virginia National Guard have deployed since 2001, and 252 have died in the "war on terror."

"Some people have been two, three, four times to Iraq and Afghanistan," McDonnell said.

During his visit to Kuwait and Afghanistan in July, McDonnell said he was heartened by what he saw.

"Afghanistan is a remarkably better nation because the United States of America has been there for 10 years," he said. "When America touches a country, it gets better. It made me proud to be an American being over there."

Back home Wednesday, McDonnell visited with first responders in Henrico County.

"You go up to them and you just thank them for what they've done for our state and for our country," he said.

But this anniversary also brings with it new questions, as America seeks a diplomatic response to violence in Syria. Governor McDonnell said Tuesday he won't support military action, but says America will always lead the fight for liberty.

"This is a perpetual battle for freedom," he said. "I think the president reminded us last night in his speech that this war for the cause of freedom really is not over."

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