Natick, Mass. -- On the morning of September 11, 2001, shocking images of violence and destruction were broadcast from New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pa. In the minutes, days, and weeks that followed, the world witnessed incredible acts of bravery, as hundreds of first responders set fear aside and risked their lives to save others. 343 firefighters, sixty police officers, and 15 emergency medical technicians paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their lives, and the lives of the nearly 3,000 victims of the four terrorist attacks, are honored each year with Patriot Day observances.

Soldiers and Department of the Army civilian employees assigned to Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC), the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), and the United States Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), along with representatives from the Town of Natick and the Massachusetts Military Task Force, met to pay their respects and observe a moment of silence on the 17th anniversary of the attacks.

James Hicks, chief of police for the Town of Natick, read the proclamation and the Natick Fire Department delivered the 11 bell tolls. Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), and senior commander of NSSC, shared personal stories about his experience in Washington D.C. during the attack on the Pentagon.

"Everyone remembers vividly where they were that morning," said Malone. "As fate would have it, I flew to Washington D.C. for a meeting at the Pentagon. But first, I had an offsite pre-brief and wasn't in the building at the time of the attack. A small detail I didn't tell my wife when I left that morning. She spent some anxious hours thinking I was in the Pentagon when the plane struck it and was fearing the worst. There was no cell coverage or communications until late in the day, but eventually I reached her and let her know I was alright."

Malone also spoke to the importance of NSSC to the Army and the United States in the aftermath of the attacks.

"Our Army and the entire military have counted on Team Natick to maximize their lethality, tactical advantage and expeditionary reach over the past 17 years. So you're part of our nation's response to the vicious attacks we endured on 9/11, and to the ongoing threats posed by the enemies of our country, its freedoms, and its cherished values."

In addition to the moment of silence, Soldiers and civilians participated in a "stair-climb challenge," commemorating the one-hundred flights of stairs ascended by first responders in New York's World Trade Center.

Following the "stair-climb challenge," Malone continued speaking on the significance of Patriot Day as he met with members of the Greater Boston chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars at the historic Union Oyster House in Boston, Mass, a location regarded for its role in the American Revolution.

"Please keep those we lost 17 years ago today, and their families, in your hearts," said Malone. "And keep the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in harm's way, and their families, in your thoughts and prayers."

The Boston Red Sox also paid their respects on Patriot Day. Sgt. Letarsha Massey, a USARIEM Soldier and researcher, sang the United States and Canadian national anthems at Fenway Park as the Red Sox faced the Toronto Blue Jays.