MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.-Twenty years ago today, Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists. On Sept. 11, 2021, the Army Reserve's 63rd Readiness Division held a solemn 9/11 Patriot- Day memorial service to remember and reflect on that terrible day, to remember the courage and bravery shown by the first responders and honor the 2,977 lives lost.
The 9/11 ceremony, the first-ever held by the command at the Sgt. James Witkowski Armed Forces Reserve Center, was at the flagpole courtyard. It was framed by the backdrop of crisp green trees, the half-staffed U.S. flag flickered above and a NASA Ames Fire Department fire truck was parked in the background. As the bright morning sun rose into the beautiful blue sky, the master of ceremony recognized the lives lost with a moment of silence followed by four rings from the fire truck engine bell conducted by a NASA Ames Fire Department firefighter.
Three guest speakers, all in public service, participated in the ceremony. The first speaker, a first responder, was then followed by an elected local government leader and then the final speaker was an Army Reserve Soldier. Each spoke about where they were on 9/11 and their different life journeys since that day.
“We are here today for remembrance and reflection for what occurred twenty years ago,” said Ricky King, battalion chief, NASA Ames Fire Department, "a day that marked a moment in all our lives, September 11th, 2001," as he addressed the dignitaries and the formation of 63rd RD Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment Soldiers.
"After the first tower was struck, within 10 minutes we had firefighters and police officers making entry," King said, as he choked back tears, as his emotions and memories of 9/11 came flooding back.
"Remembering back to 9/11," King said, he was an Air Force Master Sergeant, on that day, working in fire service on Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and that he felt sadness and anger on that day.
He said, after the second plane hit, he knew.
“We are at war," King said.
There were many losses from so many agencies, he added.
“New York Fire Department, New York Police Department, New York Port Authority, New York EMS (Emergency Medical Services), Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and civilians as well as contractors,” King said. “All gave the ultimate sacrifice. No one was greater than the other. Never forget."
On Sept. 7, 2021, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner released a statement that it had identified two more 9/11 victims' remains from the World Trade Center site through ongoing DNA analysis and that their work continues.
“In closing, I will leave you with this,” King said as he looked out at the formation of 63rd RD Soldiers in front of him. “You are truly fortunate to be an American. You are the tip of the spear that gives us our great nation. Never forget your oath to defend it. Always stand for those who cannot.
"Never forget,” said King.
The next speaker, Ellen Kamei, the Mayor of Mountain View, spoke about where she was on 9/11, what she was doing, and how she felt that tragic day.
“Today is a somber day, as we remember the lives lost on September 11th, 2001,” said Kamei. “All of us remember where we were when we heard the news, that America was under attack."
Kamei spoke about how there was a sense of shock and disbelief, pain and grief.
“Today, we remember those who passed away, those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who were directly affected by the attacks,” Kamei said. "On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, we remember how Americans across our great country, including here in Mountain View forgot our differences and became united.”
On 9/11, then for days, weeks, and months afterward, the U.S. came together to support the victims and each other as a country.
Highway overpasses were draped with American flags and signs that read, “We will never forget!”
“Though Mountain View is nearly 3,000 miles away from where these horrific acts took place we all felt the emotional toll here as if it happened right next door,” Kamei said. “This day, twenty years ago, changed us forever. Perhaps it was the event that sparked your public service.”
Of the 2,977 who died that day, nine were members of the Army Reserve; seven were first responders who perished trying to save lives in the World Trade Center towers, and two were serving inside the Pentagon when it was crashed into by the third high-jacked plane. Many Americans were motivated by 9/11 to serve their country thru military service, including some, who joined the Army Reserve.
“I am so grateful for everything that you do,” Kamei said. “Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for serving our city of Mountain View and helping to keep America safe, our community safe, me safe from those who would do us harm, never forget."
U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Alberto Rosende, commanding general of the 63rd Readiness Division was the final speaker.
“The events of that day rocked our nation, and it shifted the axis of its’ movement,” Rosende said. “Not just our nation, but the world. The entire globe has been impacted by the fateful and heinous acts of 9/11.”
Rosende shared an anecdote about listening to an interview on the radio that morning, before the ceremony, with a Marine Reservist who went to the towers, in uniform, on 9/11, to look for his missing brother and he is still waiting for confirmation, as is his nephew, the son of his brother, are both still waiting for closure.
“There are still people that carry the scars of those days,” Rosende said. “Impacted maybe not by war, maybe not by actually recovery efforts, but because they lost someone significant to them in their lives.”
“We all remember where we were that day, we all remember what we did," Rosende said. "We can remember that day and how it shifted the rest of the history of our lives. For many of us, we don’t remember what it was like to not be at war. It’s marked our service, Many of us never thought we would have gone to combat, and many of us have been there multiple times.”
In October 2001 the U.S. military and coalition partners invaded Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom to capture or kill the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
The 20 years of conflict have shaped who we are today, said Rosende.
“As we were watching recently in the news of our extrication from Afghanistan,” Rosende said. “A lot of us felt an awful lot of pain that reminds us, that we kind of went through the movie of our lives since 9/11 and brought it all back to the forefront. But I can tell you that our efforts are mandated, and our efforts are necessary."
The U.S. military and coalition partners formally completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, 2021.
“Everything that we’ve done since 9/11,” Rosende said. “We’ve done out of love for our country, the defense for our nation and its’ people. Most importantly so that our nation will survive and continue to persevere and provide posterity for generations. A place on this planet where they can live free, make the choice to live the life that they wanna live, and know that their children’s life will probably be better than their own. And there’s nowhere else on the planet where that is a promise.”
9/11 saw incredible selfless sacrifices, with strangers and first responders running towards danger to help others. It saw U.S. citizens come together collectively to help fellow Americans heal, fight back, stay strong and remain resilient.
“So, as we reflect on the pains of that day,” Rosende said. “Let’s remind ourselves of what it is that we do. Why we do it, and how we have to honor those that have gone before and have suffered, the sacrifices of devastation and death, and how we can continue to live thru their memory and promise a better life for those that will come after.
“It’s important that we remember and that we never forget,” Rosende said.