10th summit of 9/11 honors lives lost, resilience
September 9, 2011
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 8, 2011) -- Survivors, servicemembers and 9/11 first responders reflected Thursday on the past 10 years of persistent conflict, how they've coped and what the future might bring.
They met at the Newseum, "where five centuries of news history meets up-to-the-second technology on America's Main Street," in a forum that included dignitaries, filmmakers and family members.
The theme for the summit was "Remembrance, Renewal, Resilience."
"Remembering the past is not enough," said Stephen Flynn, president of the Center for National Policy, who along with the Voices of September 11th and the Rockefeller Foundation hosted the film festival and daylong summit. He added that the American people must be prepared for the future.
The day was punctuated with seven short-form documentary films that told the story of 9/11 from many angles. Each film was followed by a panel discussion by moderators such as Dan Rather, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp and Univision newscaster Ilia Calderon.
The first was "Boatlift," a film that illustrated the "armada" of civilian watercraft -- ferries, tugboats and small vessels -- that came together to evacuate a reported 500,000 people from lower Manhattan. Seen as larger than the boatlift that aided at Dunkirk during World War II, this is a story of civilians dropping everything to help.
The second film, "Wounded Warriors' Resilience" featured the recovery stories of servicemembers, many of whom were wounded in combat after joining the armed forces following the 9/11 attacks.
Featured in the film was Army Col. Greg Gadson, currently director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program, AW2. He and other wounded Soldiers and Marines joined the panel in the morning.
Gadson lost both of his legs above the knee to a roadside bomb in Baghdad on the night of May 7, 2007.
After he lost his legs, he said that he knew he wanted to remain a Soldier.
"I tried to stay positive and focused on what I could contribute and it was just a matter of convincing the right people that I could make a contribution," he said.
He said the generation he looks up to is the Soldiers of Vietnam.
"They paid the price and set the conditions that allowed a lot of people like me to continue to serve. So those are my heroes and I'm just extremely blessed and humbled to be able to continue to serve," Gadson said.
The Army's program that allows those who are not fit to serve in the traditional sense to continue to serve is "Continuation of Active Duty" and "Continuation of Active Reserve."
"One of the things that's going to test our mettle," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, "is going to be our ability to focus on (injuries) after the wars end," he said.
He said that medical doctors and researchers need to focus especially on the brain.
"We (need to do this so we can help) rehabilitate Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who leave this fight with some serious behavioral health issues," Chiarelli said.
Asked by Ilia Calderon -- the panel's hostess who reads Tweets from her listeners -- if any of the injured would do it again, knowing what they know now, Marine Corps retired 1st Lt. Denis Oliverio said with a smile, "Well, I'd duck next time."
As the audience's laughs and applause subsided, he added, "Without question, I'd do it again. It's part of service and we all take that risk, but we take that risk for a reason," Oliverio said.
Gadson added that there are many ways to serve, either as a civilian -- as those who jumped in their boats to transport people away from Manhattan -- or in the military.
"There are few opportunities to serve your nation in uniform and if you feel compelled, I encourage you to do so. You're joining an organization that is the best in the world, that is well-trained, and if something should happen to you, they'll be there to take care of you," Gadson said.
He added that continuing on after suffering injuries of the body or the mind, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, or traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is really about the human spirit.
"It's not easy, but everybody has the capability within them. It's life and that's the challenge," Gadson said.
As if in answer to those who might try to instill fear into Americans, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Americans should remember the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field near Shanksville, Pa.
"Remember, honor those lost, and rebuild individuals and communities with values we hold dear. Our continuing need to keep our country safe has never been stronger," Napolitano said.