By Jon Connor, ASC Public AffairsSeptember 12, 2012
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Weaving a tapestry of philosophy ranging from presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Bob Dylan, the guest speaker at the 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony Sept.11 shared his thoughts on the tragic terrorist attack 11 years ago.
Retired Brig. Gen. Brian Layer, former deputy command general, Army Sustainment Command, from September 2010 through May 2012, offered his experience of being at the Pentagon on that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001, to an audience comprised of the military community of RIA and guests.
Layer told attendees that today was very similar to 11 years ago because this pre-autumn day had peace and beauty, clear air, and a very blue sky.
Layer said he had just taken the Metro train Blue Line to the Pentagon and later was giving a briefing when it was made known of trouble with one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and subsequently the other. Images of billowing smoke from the towers as seen on television did not yet translate to him that this was a national crisis in the making nor that it would directly impact everyone's lives in the United States.
He explained that he eventually went to his desk to go to CNN.com for the latest -- as this was before such real-time offerings of instant communication as Facebook and Google news, he said.
"Moments later -- 'whoomph,' " was how Layer described the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon's side facing Arlington Cemetery. "What was that?" he recalled thinking, and "No, not here!"
One hundred eighty-four people died from that crash -- 59 who were in the jet including the terrorists who hijacked it and 125 in the Pentagon. The crash occurred at 9:38 a.m.
Layer said he realized that the pledge to "defend the country against all enemies" was now going to be invoked. Choosing not to go into further details of the day, Layer said nothing he could say nothing more about his day that would be any more important than those in the audience.
Layer added that he knew his life was now on a different course. Questions like "How would we respond?" and "How should we respond?" came to mind, he said.
Layer then cited some thoughts from Lincoln, and then segued to Dylan, a 1960s music icon, reading lyrics from his from his "Forever Young," song released in 1974 from the album Planet Waves.
"May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others, And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars, And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young…"
The ceremony also saw ASC employees Jereen Johnson and Everline Barnard singing an uplifting version of the national anthem.
There was also a solemn wreath laying paying tribute to all that have died as a result of the events of Sept. 11. Participating in the tribute were Layer, Joel Himsl, RIA garrison manager, along with Teri Johnson, Annie Cox, and David Pautsch. Johnson, Cox, and Pautsch are Gold Star family members, meaning they have lost a close family member as a result of military operations.
Music for the ceremony was provided by the St. Ambrose University Band. St. Ambrose is a private university located in Davenport, Iowa. The band played prior to the ceremony, during "Taps" and "America the Beautiful" following the retiring of the colors.
Additionally, a ceremonial firing of three volleys was conducted employing a five-member Joint Color Guard.
Earlier that day, a 3.25-mile "Memorial Walk" was held beginning at 6:30 a.m. to honor those fallen. As of Sept. 6, 11,795 military personnel, Coast Guardsmen, Department of the Army civilians, and U.S. contractors have been killed since Sept. 11, 2001, stated an ASC invitation slide.
Those participating received a bundle of 25 small U.S. flags -- each flag representing a life lost since 9-11 -- and concluded the walk by placing them in a "field of honor" across the street from RIA's Memorial Field off Rodman Avenue. The field of honor will remain until after reveille on Sept. 14.
It was hoped that the Memorial Walk "evokes a new sense of re-commitment to the task at hand" an RIA invitation slide stated.
Two years ago, the RIA military community carried more than 250 bricks weighing about 2,000 pounds on a 3.25 walk to symbolize the community's responsibility to carry the load and memory of those who have died resulting from 9-11.
The bricks were then used to build a permanent tribute, replicating the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The memorial is lit every evening in their memory and for those who will continue to make the ultimate sacrifice.