A moment of silence followed by a bell tolling 11 times at a Patriot Day observance Sept. 10 at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center honored the memories of the thousands of civilians and Soldiers lost during and since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A large number of NSSC military and civilian workers gathered by the flagpole in front of the Carney Hall administration building to pay tribute to those who have fallen.

"Our world, as Americans, has not been the same since the morning of September 11," said U.S. Army Garrison-Natick Command Sgt. Maj. Earl B. Allen, the guest speaker. "For the last nine years, we have been a nation at war."

Nearly 3,000 civilians died in that day's attacks, and almost 6,000 service men and women have given their lives in the continuing war against terrorism.

Allen spoke of the first responders of 9/11 -- the firefighters, police and other rescue workers who perished while trying to save others in the attacks.

"These patriots became my family," Allen said. "They became my friends. They became my heroes."

The moment of silence coincided with the time that the first airliner struck the World Trade Center in New York City. After the bell tolled, bagpiper Matthew Phelps played "Amazing Grace."

Earlier in the solemn ceremony, Melvin Williams sang the National Anthem and Chaplain (Maj.) Steve Austin delivered the invocation.

"Almighty God, we are gathered here this morning thankful for the gifts of freedom and justice, blessed to live in a land where citizens can speak their minds and live their beliefs without being killed," Austin said. "We honor the memory of our fellow Americans, who have sacrificed their lives in defense of these freedoms. May their example make us more determined to build a country where we can live in peace."

Allen praised those in attendance for their efforts in the ongoing fight against terrorism.

"I want to thank the Natick workforce for everything that you have contributed to protecting Soldiers (who) deploy in harm's way," said Allen, adding that many service members, civilians and contractors were able to return home to loved ones because of the important work done here.

"I ask that you continue researching, continue developing and continue to provide the equipment, the food, the shelter and the clothing that will help (me), our Soldiers, our civilians to endure the rigors of combat, because without you, we can't make it through this war," Allen said. "You are truly American patriots."