ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Despite 21 years passing since the U.S. was attacked by terrorists in a three-prong operation on Sept. 11, 2001, the pain still lives in many Americans, especially those people who lost a loved one that day and subsequently in the Global War on Terror.
But the pain and memories of that tragically historic day also live on in all Americans who recall the horrors of those attacks and how it shaped the next 20 years of their lives.
As is now customary, a Remembrance Ceremony was held at the RIA 9/11 Memorial across from Memorial Field during the mid-morning of Sept. 9 to honor those who died. And as the sun rose earlier, people took to Rodman Avenue from the parking lot of Memorial Field to walk 2.5 miles. Each walker carried a bundle of 25 small American flags, with their journey ending in placing flags in a “field of honor” for each of the fallen at the 9/11 Memorial area.
The walk is also intended to evoke a new sense of re-commitment to the task at hand.
The event was hosted by Col. Daniel Mitchell, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-RIA.
“It is a place that will forever mark the history of one of the darkest days of our nation,” Mitchell said, referring to RIA’s 9/11 Memorial. “It is also a place symbolizing strength, resilience, and the intrepid spirit that makes our country and our citizens beacons of hope for millions of people around the world.”
The RIA 9/11 Memorial is a lasting tribute to those people who perished from the attacks and subsequent operations. It is a stone replica of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. It is illuminated every evening in memory of their sacrifice and for those who continue to lay their lives down in the name of freedom.
Mitchell added that regarding the tragic events of 9/11, Americans remain united.
“We all speak with one voice in our commitment to honor them with two simple words that echoes in our hearts – never forget.”
This year’s guest speaker was Maj. Gen. Mark Jackson, deputy commanding general – Operations, Army National Guard, First U.S. Army.
In his remarks, Jackson said 9/11 “… is a day that changed everything for our country.”
He spoke of Gold Star families, of which two were present, for the ceremony and assured them their loss of their Soldier was not in vain. And, that those in uniform believe “that all risks we take are worth our freedom.
“As we sit here in awe of those who fell in the line of duty … it occurs to me we owe them, and we owe to them, to call back our memories and all those moments that we as Americans stood together, we hurt together, and healed together.”
While Jackson said 9/11 was one of the United States’ worst days, it also revealed the best in many people.
And while the events of the next two decades in the U.S. have divided many people at many levels in society, Jackson said it was time to rekindle the bonding of Americans that occurred after 9/11.
Americans owed it to themselves, he said, to “get ourselves back to a place where it’s no longer a foreign concept to hold hands with a stranger.”
Jackson then recalled that on Sept. 11 all Americans said, “We’ll never forget.”
He then said the question for now is “… which images do we choose to remember, to immortalize, and to recreate?”
All totaled, 2,977 Americans died in the Sept. 11 attacks resulting from two hijacked jets slamming into New York City’s World Trade Center towers, or Twin Towers as they were commonly called, while another hijacked jet crashed in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and yet another hijacked jet struck the Pentagon.
During his address to the nation that evening, President George Bush said this: “A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”
On Dec. 18, 2001, Bush signed into law designating Sept. 11 as Patriot Day. In 2009, Congress designated Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The GWOT and afterward saw another 7,075 Department of Defense personnel killed in the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as of Aug. 22, 2022.
The ceremony also featured a wreath laying, a 21-gun salute, a moment of silence, and the playing of taps.
The All Saints Catholic School Choir of Davenport, Iowa, sang the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
For more information on Patriot Day: https://www.army.mil/patriotday/