By Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public AffairsSeptember 12, 2013
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. (Sept. 12, 2013) -- The rain fell for the first time in 36 days. Someone commented that it could be tears.
Whatever it was, the day was as different as the unusual weather, for it was the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The Rock Island Arsenal community marked the solemn occasion with a 9/11 Dedication & Remembrance Ceremony to honor all those who died that day and those who died or were wounded as a result of the two wars that followed. They also paid tribute to all the heroes involved in rescue efforts.
As of Sept. 5, a total of 9,703 people have died. Another 30,613 have been wounded in action , some with life-altering injuries.
The guest speaker was Col. Daniel Mitchell, deputy commanding officer, Army Sustainment Command. Mitchell was in the Pentagon when the attack on America's defense fortress took place.
"Twelve years ago today, the world as we know it changed forever," Mitchell said. "And unlike previous conflicts and wars, there is no peace treaty, no armistice, no collapse of a superpower -- the threat is still there," citing the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Mitchell said that we "must recommit" to protecting America's freedoms.
"I was in the Pentagon and lost many friends. The crucible events I lived through since then have made me a better person and officer," explained Mitchell, who has served two tours in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, and who has 28 years of service.
"You all have been shaped and refined by the events that have happened since then; 9/11 is personal to us, it changed us," he said. "The terrorists meant it for bad, but we, as a nation, showed them how good people are supposed to react. Just as World War II produced the great generation, 9/11 produced the next great generation."
Mitchell thanked first responders, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians. He also said a "debt of gratitude" is owed to all branches of the armed forces.
"I saw many Soldiers write those letters to their loved ones before they went off on dangerous missions, like Fallujah (Iraq)," he said. "Knowing they might die, they went anyway, seemingly fearless, and performed their jobs."
Mitchell said that while those people who died leave our hearts with wounds that cannot completely heal, the U.S. became stronger as a nation and as a people.
"The events of 9/11 sparked a sense of pride and patriotism in all Americans, and showed us that -- despite our differences -- we stood united when it came to shared values," he said. "As we stand together in remembrance today, let us renew that spirit of unity and strength, and tap that spirit as we face challenges of today, and the challenges that are sure to come tomorrow."
There was also a wreath laying paying tribute to all that have died as a result of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Participating in the tribute were Teri Johnson, Annie Cox, David Pautsch, and Brenda Luxmore. Johnson, Cox, Pautsch and Luxmore are Gold Star family members, meaning they have lost a close family member as a result of military operations.
Additionally, a ceremonial firing of three volleys was conducted employing a seven-member detail. The national anthem was sung by Shawn Gibson, Safety Office, ASC.
The non-commissioned officers-in-charge of the joint color guard and the ceremonial firing detail were Sgt. 1st Class Steven Lambert and Staff Sgt. James Forst respectively.
The ceremony also included retiring the colors, a moment of silence, the playing of "Taps," and the singing of "America the Beautiful."
Earlier that day, a 3.25-mile "Memorial Walk" was held beginning at 6:30 a.m. to honor the fallen. Those participating received a bundle of 25 small U.S. flags -- each flag representing a life lost since 9/11 -- and concluded the walk by placing them in a "field of honor" across the street from RIA's Memorial Field off Rodman Avenue.
The flags will remain in place until after reveille, Sept. 13.
Three years ago, the RIA military community carried more than 250 bricks weighing about 2,000 pounds on a five-mile walk to symbolize the community's responsibility of "Sharing the Burden," and remember those who have died resulting from 9/11.
The bricks were then used to build a permanent tribute, replicating the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The memorial is lit every evening in their memory and for those who may make the ultimate sacrifice.