Everything changed for the United States on Sept, 11, 2001.
There are now children graduating from high school who had not been born yet when, on that day, terrorists struck the world trade center killing thousands, Americans have not forgotten what happened that day.
Friday, Fort Riley commemorated the 19th anniversary of an attack that has reverberated throughout the American psyche since the day it happened.
The ceremony honored the way Americans came together as one in the wake of the attacks and put aside their differences for a time. It honored those who died during the attack, including those first responders who died while trying to save victims of the attack and military members and affiliates who lost their lives in the subsequent wars that followed the attacks.
The ceremony was live streamed on Facebook, narrated by Sgt. First Class Martinez Vandergrift, who is a member of the Audie Murphy Club.
“On that day, our enemies rejoiced, our friends and allies wept and nations throughout the world expressed their condemnation of the attacks and their condolences to the American people,” he said. “On that day, the differences between Americans seemed of little importance and an overwhelming sense of community swept the nation. On that day, the American people rallied behind the symbol of their freedom, the American flag, and pledged a new allegiance.”
Deputy Commanding General of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division Brig. Gen. Thomas O’Connor served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. His father, he said, was present during the attack. O’Connor told his story.
“Together, as one nation, we stand together to remember the victims and mourn their stolen hopes that dreams,” he said. “Now, my father stood at the base of tower one as the second plane impacted the twin towers. And what he remembers most of that day was the resolve on the faces of the brave men and women — the firefighters, the police, the rescue workers, the first responders and all those heroes — who ran and rushed to the scene through the clouds of smoke and dust that was cast upon our great nation. And they ran knowing they may never return.”
And some of them didn’t, when the towers collapsed on themselves with people, including first responders, still inside.
“These men and women of all ages, races, religions and creeds stood together to show the world that Americans would not waver in their collective commitment to the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our nation stands for,” O’Connor said.