9/11 anniversary: Remembering those for whom the bell tolls

Published 1:37 pm Monday, September 11, 2023

By Emily Burleigh

The values that guided those during the events of Sept. 11, 2001, live on through those at Fort Johnson and the surrounding area.

On Monday, Fort Johnson held a ceremony to remember the orchestrated attacks on the United States coordinated by al-Qaeda terrorists 22 years ago, honor those who lost their lives and pay tribute to those who bravely responded to the attacks.

“Today, we gather not just to remember a tragic day in our history, but also to recall a sense of unity and community spirit that emerged from the ashes of that horrific event,” said BG David W. Gardner, commanding general JRTC and Fort Johnson.

9/11 was designed to divide and instill fear in the nation, and “forever altered the course of history and irrevocably changed countless lives,” he said.

“The spirit of America is unbreakable, even in the face of an unimaginable tragedy. … It was an act of evil meant to shake the very foundation upon which this great nation is built, and yet here we stand two decades later stronger than ever.”

The four attacks were symbolized with Bell Tolls rung at the times they occurred. The first and second bells rang at 7:46 a.m. for American Airlines Flight 11 and 8:03 a.m. for United Airlines Flight 175 to honor the thousands who died during the collapse of the Twin Towers.

At 8:37 a.m., a third series of chimes rang out for American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon.

Lastly, after the start of the ceremony, bells tolled for United Airlines Flight 93 at 9:03 a.m.

“The images from that day are indelible,” Gardner said. “The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center engulfed in flames, eventually collapsing into plumes of smoke and dust. The Pentagon, the heart of our military might, battered but not broken. United Airlines Flight 93 brought down near a Pennsylvania field by passengers who knew they had to act, even if it meant sacrificing their lives to save others.”

The last 22 years, the 11th of September have been somber, but the efforts of the firefighters, police officers, medical workers and citizens that directly responded to the 9/11 attacks should be celebrated. In their sacrifice, they became “extraordinary heroes.”

“While the temptation to dwell on the horror and the pain is strong, let’s also recall the heroism, resilience and unity that we witnessed that day and in the days following,” Gardner said. “In their selfless acts, they embodied the best of the American spirit.”

The events of 9/11 led to millions enrolling in the armed forces. They have served in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to “deny terrorists the safe haven and to protect the American people.”

“Our mission was clear, to protect the land we love and to ensure that such an attack would never happen again on American soil. We went to far-off lands, leaving behind families and the comforts of home to confront the enemies who wished to do us harm.”

He said he has witnessed the same values and sacrifice in first responders and residents during the recent bought of wildfires that have taken place throughout the area. They have protected the community, homes and families from wildfires.