NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 11, 2017) -- Members of the Natick Soldier Systems Center community gathered together near the flagpole in front of the headquarters building Sept. 11 to remember the sacrifices that took place on 9/11 and thereafter.

Speaking to those assembled for the Patriot Day observance, Brig. Gen. Anthony W. Potts, NSSC senior commander, compared that day 16 years ago to such iconic events as the opening battles of the American Revolution and Civil War and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"September 11, 2001, is among those historical flashpoints," said Potts, "and since it impacted those of us past school age very personally and very powerfully, it continues to resonate."

As Potts pointed out, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and (United Airlines) Flight 93. Potts was in the Pentagon when it was hit by American Airlines Flight 77.

"I can actually remember the impact tremor as I stood in the Pentagon the day the aircraft struck it," Potts said. "The magnitude of loss of life is staggering to ponder, and but for the bravery shown by first responders in New York and the Pentagon, the death and suffering would have been much worse.

"Many survived because of the first responders who ran headlong into danger to save people that they did not know. They ran into the towers and the Pentagon to save lives as other ran from the danger."

Potts observed that on that fateful day, 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 15 EMTs gave their lives attempting to save others.

"These men and women became heroes, not out of choice; no one gets to choose to be a hero," Potts said. "They became heroes because they put fear aside and the safety and well-being of the people in those burning buildings above their own -- the ultimate embodiment of selfless sacrifice."

Earlier in the ceremony, Town of Natick Fire Chief Rick White read the Patriot Day presidential proclamation.

NSSC observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center that day in New York City. Then a bell tolled 11 times.

After the observance, NSSC held its second stair climb challenge to symbolize the daily sacrifices made by first responders.