Today marks the 17th anniversary of the attacks on the United States when terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania.

In the words of then-President George W. Bush, “our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts” that Tuesday in 2001 as “thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.”

Now known as Patriot Day, Sept. 11 offers an occasion to remember the almost 3,000 lives that were lost, and to honor the first responders, law enforcement personnel and ordinary Americans who put their lives at risk to save others.

“Seventeen years later, it still makes me proud that in the face of tragedy, American patriotism prevailed above evil,” U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said in his observance of the occasion. “We lowered our heads in prayer and rose up to serve our fellow man. We bound together as they tried to tear us apart. And we reflected on how very fortunate we are to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Display of the United States flag on 9/11 is a way Americans can be reminded that their country remained strong in the face of evil attacks.