By Vanessa Flores, WSMR Public AffairsSeptember 13, 2019
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. -- On Sept. 11, 2001, the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania faced devastating terrorist attacks.
That morning Americans across the country knew their lives would never be the same. Now, 18 years later, we are still living in the aftermath of the attack.
To honor the first responders and victims our country lost that day, White Sands Missile Range held a ceremony on Sept. 11 at the Main Post Chapel.
In the backdrop of the ceremony, were photos of the firefighters and police officers who gave their lives saving others.
"Where were you when the world stopped turning on that clear September day? That day our country was in despair, and the unknowns were unbearable," said the guest speaker, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Parker. "At the same time, it was a day where acts of heroism and courage transpired with so many putting their lives in danger. Ultimately, unifying our country in a way, we could have never imagined."
Within his speech, Parker shared the courageous story of Ronald P. Bucca, one of the first to respond to the tower attacks. At the time, he was a New York City Fire Department Marshal, before that he was an Army Special Forces Soldier. He served in the Army for 29 years.
"Ronald may have been one of the first to sacrifice his life for those in danger. However, many others have lost their lives due to the aftermath of 9/11," said Parker. "Almost two decades later, we still have to say goodbye to the heroes who have been suffering from 9/11 related illnesses."
Parker highlighted that people are still dealing with the consequences of the attacks.
He shared the story of Luis Alvarez, who testified to Congress on June 11 this year about the extension of health benefits for the Sept. 11 first responders. He lost his battle with cancer a few weeks after his testimony, at the end of June.
Alvarez also served in the military as a Marine and at the time of the attacks worked for the New York Police Department.
Unified in their duties on Sept. 11, the ceremony was a blend of firefighter and police ceremonious traditions.
The Directorate of Emergency Services Honor Guard, consisting of representatives from both the Fire Department and Police Division participated in the ceremony. Their duties included the placing of the wreath between symbolically displayed uniforms representing the firefighters and police officers who died during the attacks.
As a tribute to the fallen police officers, there was a 'Final Call' over the police department radios during the ceremony. This traditional ceremony is for officers whose lives are lost in the line of duty. Radios are the primary method of communication for police; they start and end their shifts with it. During their shifts, they use it to communicate with one another and their dispatchers.
The tribute for the fallen firefighters was a 'Ringing of the Bell.' At this ceremony, there were three bell rings, three times. The bell is significant to a firefighter; it indicates the beginning of the shift and summons them to fight a fire. When a fire goes out, the sound of the bell goes off again, signifying the end of an emergency to firefighters.