Boston, Mass.--Eighteen years ago, on a cloudless Tuesday morning, evil visited our great nation. As Toby Keith sang, "A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back." The United States had fallen under attack.
Between the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, and Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93, nearly three thousand lives were lost. As fires raged and smoke bellowed from the devastation, strength and courage emerged from a steadfast American resolve.
On Sept. 11, Soldiers and civilians of the Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC) gathered alongside distinguished guests, including first responders from the Town of Natick, for a remembrance ceremony.
"As Americans, we have worked to recover and rebuild," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, NSSC senior commander. "As a nation we have worked to respond and diminish that threat…as the Army, we commit to protect our country and our people."
Occurring nearly two decades ago, there is a generation of young men and women who may not remember the tragedies 9/11.
"Some of our newest recruits and youngest Soldiers may not have been born or may be too young to remember that day," said Malone. "It is important for this new generation to understand why men and women from all backgrounds continue to selflessly serve this country. The tragedy of that Tuesday morning is a shared experience that binds us as Soldiers, civilians, and families and weaves us together into the fabric that is America."
Malone shared a few stories of bravery as there were a number of acts of personal courage and heroism throughout that day, especially at the Pentagon. When Flight 77 struck at the heart of the American military, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsman ran not from danger, but toward it; including Army Lt. Col. Ted Anderson, Staff Sgt. Christopher Braman, and Spc. Beau Doboszenski.
Of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 412 were first responders, including firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. Another two thousand were injured. Throughout the war on terror which followed, more than seven thousand Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Department of Defense civilians have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation, with an additional 53,000 injured.
At 8:46 a.m., the time that Flight 11 struck the North Tower, attendees observed a moment of silence with 11 bell tolls from a Natick fire truck.
Following the ceremony, Natick Soldiers and civilians climbed 110 flights of stairs, representing those that first responders endured at the World Trade Center, to reflect in solidarity on the physical demands expected of first responders and the challenges that come with it.
"We honor [all those lost and injured] and challenge ourselves to live as they would have lived; to live as they would have us live," said Malone. "To do our best, every day, to protect and defend our American way of life, our values, and our freedoms, for those of us who stand here today and those who will stand here tomorrow."