FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 11, 2019) -- Whether they ran to remember or paused to reflect, community members across Fort Drum took time to observe the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

More than 1,000 Soldiers, family members and civilians observed the 9/11 anniversary with a Remembrance 5K Run/Walk outside Magrath Sports Complex.

Chaplain (Col.) James Foster, 10th Mountain Division (LI) chaplain, said it was a privilege to run with so many community members and collectively reflect on the events of that tragic day.

"Yet, many times, we forget why we are out here," he said. "Evil does exist in our world, and that is why we are here, that's why we train and that's why we prepare for war - to defend others who are unable to defend themselves."

Foster said that the true strength of fighting Soldiers is not in the weapons they carry but in their minds and spirit. He said that the run represents a challenge for everyone to push themselves and finish strong.

"I'm going to be tempted to stop, and yet my body knows it can go further," he said. "I have to push it to continue to go on and do the right thing. Each and every day we struggle, we press on and make right choices because that's who we are."

Dozens of 2nd Brigade Combat Team Soldiers took on the additional challenge of carrying weighted litters and water canisters for a unit competition. Capt. Charlie Lawrence, fire support officer for 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, said that this "run to remember" honors all service members who sacrificed their lives in the war on terrorism.

"This event was put on to make sure that the camaraderie that we've established persists and grows stronger moving forward," he said. "Although there was an offer for an award to the team that won this challenge, everyone wins because we all fight together."

Lawrence said it was an honor to wear the Army uniform and participate in a remembrance run. The extra weight they carried represents the burden of responsibility they have every day to live the Army values while defending the nation.

"This is just another day at the office for us," he said. "These guys pushed each other without hesitation. I've been in units where I didn't see the kind of motivation I've seen here. I'm privileged and excited to work with these Soldiers."

Shortly after the run, Fort Drum community members gathered outside Clark Hall for a solemn ceremony to commemorate the 9/11 attacks. Representatives from Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services stood on both sides of the 9/11 Memorial as a wreath was placed in front.

Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, said this is a day to pause and reflect on the events of 9/11 and what it means to be an American.

He pointed at the American flag above the 9/11 memorial - suspended from the ladders of two firetrucks - and said that the power of that flag united Americans across the country and strengthened the nation's resolve to fight terrorism after 9/11.

He also said this is a time to celebrate first responders and the service members of the U.S. Armed Forces for their heroic response following 9/11, and the service they continue to provide to protect and defend the nation.

"I just count myself lucky - lucky that we can pause and recognize the significance of this event and what it means to us - the sacrifice made by those professionals. I count myself lucky to be among them," he said.

Mennes said that he was aboard a C-17 aircraft, in a Joint Special Operations Command and Control Center, when he heard about the terrorist attack in New York City. At first, he thought it was a training exercise. The plane landed in Bosnia, and he waited three days until the no-fly restriction was lifted so he could return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"The nation was asking our team to figure out how to strike back," he said. "So from that day and that minute, I had started planning to be a part of the war."

Retired Fort Drum Fire Captain Robert Tennies had narrated the memorial ceremony for several years while on the force, and he said it was an honor to have been invited back. He retired in April after 25 years of service at Fort Drum.

"As I look back 18 years and I reflect on this day, it's still hard to believe that it happened," he said. "I was just watching videos about it yesterday - just watching the humanity of people coming together in this tragedy to help one another out."

Tennies was on duty on 9/11 watching the events unfold with his colleagues at the Fort Drum fire station. Two days later, he volunteered to work a 24-hour shift at Ground Zero in New York City, assisting with search-and-rescue efforts. It was an experience he would never forget, although it's difficult for him to think about the firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

"(I think about) those firefighters going up those towers, knowing that they might not come back," he said. "But that's what we do. We go into danger to help people, because they can't help themselves. We're there on your worst day to try and help you have a better day."