The terror attacks of September 11th, 2001 marked that date in all history as a watershed moment for modern civilization. It’s difficult to overstate the changes that followed the deadliest attack on American soil in the modern era, as the reverberating social, political, and economic effects compounded in ways that will be analyzed for decades to come. An entire generation of Americans have since been raised under the banner of a war on terror that rages on. Within the next year, Americans will swear their oaths of enlistment and enter into a fight that began before they were even born, motivated, empowered by the collective sense of loss that permeated throughout the nation, granting the diverse and disparate peoples of the United States a brief glimpse of apolitical solidarity.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 demonstrated the worst in humanity, but the through the turmoil and the rubble, other things were on full display: pride, compassion, bravery, and the indomitable American spirit.

The following images were captured during the attacks on this day, 17 years ago. Today, we look back, not to reopen old wounds, but to honor the scars that define us. We honor the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives, the millions more that mourned, and the friendly nations that came to America’s aid, but more so, we honor the American ideal — never achieved, but always sought through the passions and will of hard working men and women. A group of terrorists believed they could break that will through their attack, but what they found instead was a nation galvanized by its willingness to heal, and to respond.

In the years since, America has grown perhaps more politically divided than ever, but the lessons learned on this day 17 years ago remain: in times of need, of great strife, Americans will find common ground with their neighbors and work together toward a better future.