NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 12, 2016) -- Fifteen years after terrorists used hijacked commercial airliners to attack the U.S., the Natick Soldier Systems Center workforce gathered Friday to remember the nearly 3,000 Americans who died and the courageous actions of first responders on 9/11.

At 8:46 a.m., the time when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City on that clear, crisp Tuesday morning, NSSC observed a moment of silence before a bell tolled 11 times.

"This is a day that we pause and mourn those we lost in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania," said Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III, NSSC senior commander. "We also take time to reflect on the strength that was shown that September day."

Todd pointed out that many distinguished themselves as heroes on that Tuesday in September 2001. One was Welles Crowther, an equities trader and former volunteer firefighter.

"He directed survivors down the stairs and carried an injured woman on his back down 15 floors to safety," Todd said. "He went back inside the towers to help others with the 'Jaws of Life' in his hand, and his body was found alongside firefighters in a stairwell. Welles Crowther was 24 years old."

Todd related that Spc. Beau Doboszenski, a trained EMT, spent hours treating co-workers and running into the inferno as part of a six-man team; that Tom Burnett, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick and Todd Beamer rushed the cockpit of Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field instead of reaching Washington, D.C.; and that Officer Moria Smith, the first New York City police officer to respond to the attack, saved many from the towers before becoming the only female officer to lose her life that day.

"The 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and eight EMTs who lost their lives were heroes that day," Todd said. "They made the ultimate sacrifice running into a burning building to rescue their fellow citizens. Without their heroic efforts, we can't imagine how high the loss of life would have been."

Todd thanked members of the Natick Police and Fire Departments in attendance for their own service and professionalism. Then he turned his attention to service members and the NSSC workforce.

"Our military answered our nation's call fifteen years ago, and it continues to do so today," Todd said. "Many of the Soldiers standing here today have volunteered for military service since 9/11 knowing that they could deploy in harm's way. They serve with honor and pride, and I am honored to be on their team.

"The workforce standing here today answer our challenges every day. We ask them to make our warfighters the best protected and best equipped in the world, and they continue to find new ways to do it. They live the vision of the Natick Soldier Systems Center -- one team committed to Soldier success."

Natick Police Chief James Hicks read the Patriot Day Proclamation from President Barack Obama, and the Natick High School Choir performed at the ceremony.