FORT KNOX, Ky. — “At the end of the day, you never know when you’re going to be here today and gone tomorrow.”The poignant words of Brig. Gen. T.J. Edwards, officer of Personnel Management Directorate at U.S. Army Human Resources Command, resonated through this year’s Patriot Day ceremony at Fort Knox Sept. 11. He and several others assembled to honor the Soldiers, first responders and civilians who lost their lives in 2001 in the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, in a Somerset County, Pennsylvania field, and at the Pentagon.For Edwards, the memory of that day 19 years ago is very personal.Edwards sat in a meeting at the Pentagon in the Personnel section when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west wall: the side where he and others worked. He personally knew Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, the highest ranking military officer killed that day.“When he introduced himself, he would say, ‘I’m Tim Maude. I’m a proud American Soldier,’” said Edwards to the crowd. “Like him, I’m a proud American Soldier.”Edwards said the day changed his life as he recalled the events that led up to the crash at the Pentagon; facts like how the doomed Pentagon flight was flying over Kentucky when terrorists hijacked it in midair and turned it around toward Washington, D.C.“It was just a huge explosion. I had no idea a plane had hit the building,” said Edwards. “Glass shattered everywhere. The ceiling didn’t collapse, but lights went off and a whole bunch of dust came down. You could hear the muffled screams and chaos out in the hallway.”Edwards described the next few moments as a fog that seemed to settle over him as the shock of the moment turned to inaction. Then something began burning his right ankle.“I looked down at my shoe and thought, ‘What is that?’” said Edwards. “It was a baseball size piece of this Boeing 757 from Flight 77 — a baseball size chunk of metal that was on fire. I think that kind of pulled me out of this fog. I noticed at that point where the plane impacted.”The airplane had hit right where one of his best friends sat: the very spot where he and Lt. Col. Kip Taylor had often looked out the window at the helipad nearby to see which distinguished visitors were flying in, where he and Kip would often talk about life — a window that no longer existed.“His wife was 7 ½-months pregnant when he was killed,” said Edwards.Edwards said he spent the next several hours looking for survivors, helping people get out of the building, and coordinating relief efforts. He didn’t make it home that night until well after 9:30 p.m.“Later, you realize 125 people in the building died. You realize 53 airline passengers died and all six crewmembers were killed, and of course the terrorists, too,” said Edwards.After Edwards and U.S. Army Cadet Command Commander Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr. spoke, the fire bell rang out over the crowd, followed by the singing of Amazing Grace, the firing of a ceremonial tank, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.Evans and Edwards joined Deputy Fire Chief Jason Lewis and Police Chief Michael Doggett to place a wreath at the flagpole.“Today is always a tough day for me,” said Evans. “As I look around at the audience, at the age of experience represented here, I feel confident in saying it is a tough day for many.”Evans said the images that unfolded on that day, when he served as a company commander in 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will always be burned into his mind.“As the commander of Cadet Command, I spend a considerable amount of time with people who are significant younger than me —” said Evans. “Although they may not recall with the same degree of clarity the events of that tragic day, they have nonetheless grown up in a world shaped by them.“They will never know something as simple as walking through the airport without having to take off your shoes.”Evans said there is much about that day that still angers him.“Let us not allow our anger today to grip our hearts, but rather, focus on the indomitable American spirit that survives and thrives despite adversity,” said Evans. “Today, we remember patriots. We honor patriots. We sustain our commitment to be patriots, for it is on days like these when we stand with heavy hearts but firm commitment.“It is on days like these that we most need patriots.”Edwards said he uses his 9/11 experience to encourage others to pursue greatness, even as the voices and memories of his fellow human resources friends who lost their lives at the Pentagon remain fresh in his memory.“This has driven me to be the best that I can be, to honor what they stood for — these were folks that were trying to make a difference for Army Soldiers and their Families. I try to make that my passion as to why I continue to serve,” said Edwards. “And if I happen to be gone tomorrow, I would certainly want someone like me sharing with others that I also had an impact, that I made a difference, and that my life mattered — because I cared.”____________________________________________________________Editor's Note: For more images, go to the Patriot Day album at the official Fort Knox Flickr site HERE.