ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- As dawn approached, Quad Cities community members and Rock Island Arsenal military and civilian personnel gathered at Memorial Field Sept. 11 to honor those whose lives were lost during the terrorist attacks that took place 17 years ago.

Approximately 300 people went on a 2.5-mile remembrance walk that came to an end at the 9/11 Memorial located on Rodman Avenue. Here, participants planted a total of 9,084 American flags representing the 2,977 lives lost during the 2001 terrorist attacks and the thousands more lost in combat ever since.

The flags were planted behind a brick replica of the World Trade Center's twin towers and a marble replica of the Pentagon, which was also heavily damaged as a result of the attacks.

The remembrance walk was followed by a ceremony held later in the morning, where Michael Hutchison, deputy to the commander, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, provided opening remarks.

"Just as this observance shows, we will not forget those who gave their lives on September 11th," Hutchison said. "We must also promise that we will not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

"We saw then, and we know now, that we are part of a cause that is worth fighting for," Hutchison said.

Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, director, Army Emergency Relief, was the keynote speaker at the event.

"Seventeen years have passed since then and the world is a far different place than what it was," Mason said, "but one thing has not changed -- the strength and the goodness of the American people."

Mason talked about the symbolical importance of the flags placed behind the memorial.

"Each one of the flags on the ground today -- they're just cloth and a stick -- but each one of them represents a life that had hopes, desires, and had loved ones," Mason said.

"We will never forget and we will always stand against tyranny and defend our values and way of life, anywhere and every time it is threatened." he said.

Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois, also attended the event.

"Our challenge is to make sure that young people know our history and that they understand sacrifices," Loebsack said.

A firefighter's helmet and a police officer's hat were placed on top of each pillar of the memorial, to symbolize the sacrifice of first responders on Sept. 11, 2001.

Bustos recognized the first responders who acted in response to the attacks without hesitation.

"Four hundred and twelve of the victims were first responders, like the ones who are sitting here today," she said. "They saw their fellow Americans in the midst of a raging inferno and, rather than running away from it, they ran into it, and it even cost them their own lives."

Bustos talked about how, in the weeks and months following the attacks, the American people came together. Many young people signed up to fight in the war that still goes on today, to bring justice to our country, Bustos said.

Of those who perished during the attacks, 2,753 people were killed at the World Trade Center in New York City; 184 were killed at the Pentagon in Washington; and 40 died near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.