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PROVO — Life continues on even after terrorists dealt Americans a "tragic blow" on 9/11, but Utah Valley University president and published scholar Matthew Holland said Sunday that "they did not win."
"Property, peace and precious life were destroyed that day, on a scale that still makes our souls mourn, and in a way that has forever changed the way that we travel, govern and defend ourselves," he said. "Yet here we are, millions upon millions of us. We sing and pray. We laugh and lounge. We toil and tour and trade, and we do so in the land still best described as a land of freedom."
While people might still feel somewhat nervous, inconvenienced or melancholy because of the events that unfolded in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania that day, "this historical, social and political victory that is America, still stands," he said. "And we stand in it."
Holland praises those who found resolve in compassion, hope and unity when the nation was "jolted out of complacency" and said that the 10-year anniversary was a day when Americans could not only remember what transpired, "but also how we responded."
Days after hijacked planes flew into New York's World Trade Center towers in 2001, a local psychologist and American Red Cross volunteer packed his bags and joined in the recovery efforts.
"It was an opportunity to look inward and ask ourselves what we're about," said Richard Heaps, a professor and counselor at Brigham Young University who volunteered his time in New York City after the attacks on 9/11.
He said he can still smell the metallic odor that lingered in the air there — it has become a lasting memory.
Heaps was recognized Sunday during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony held at the Provo Seventh-day Adventist Church. While there were many others who volunteered and donated to various causes, Provo Mayor John Curtis said Heaps "represents the best of our community who stepped forward in a time of tragedy."
An overflow congregation released 250 red and blue balloons into the sky following the program, which included a video tribute containing local sentiments regarding the decade-old events, and musical number by the Payson High School bagpipe band.
The balloons, which drifted away quickly in the wind, represented the 2,977 individuals who lost their lives 10 years ago, but also the troubles of those who let go of them Sunday.
"Today, we know the names and much of the history of those who perished in this awful act," Holland said, adding that it wasn't necessary to enumerate. "It's simply enough to know that the distinctive and sacred light of their lives was extinguished."
"Such news, especially on this kind of scale, should never be passed over lightly or easily forgotten by any of us, anywhere," he said.
Holland encouraged a continuance of the amplified bravery, unity and charity that enveloped Americans in the days and months that followed 9/11. He asked that Americans "make day-to-day efforts to live together in kindness and patience" and always "remember what was and remains at stake."
Liberty, he said, "must be fought for and defended constantly."