SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo and Honduran military members paused Thursday to remember the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aircraft crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with a remembrance service and 3.43 mile memorial run at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
The 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Emergency Services initiated the first commemorative service here in 2013 to go along with the thousands of memorials conducted by Department of Defense and civilian fire stations nation-wide.
Four speakers recited the narrative of the four flights and their target as a bell was rung at the beginning of each story in memoriam of the firefighters, police, emergency personnel, civilians who were killed in the attacks and the military personnel who have lost their lives in the wars since. Afterwards, service members participated in a 3.43 mile run to honor the 343 New York firefighters that lost their lives trying to save the victims in the twin towers.
"It is important that we take the time to recognize this day and pay homage to those that sacrificed so much during this horrific event," U.S. Air Force MSgt William Janczewski, 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Emergency Services deputy fire chief. "The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the downing of the aircraft in Shanksville, Pa. are a day that will forever echo in our history."
"Today we memorialize the men, women, and children lost on 9/11. We will never forget them," stated U.S. Army Col. Kirk Dorr, JTF-Bravo commander. "Our Nation and our military emerged from that terrible day stronger and more committed."
Some of those who are stationed at Soto Cano were involved in the post attack recovery, close to ground zero or have vivid memories of that fateful day.
"This event fell within my battalion's green readiness status and two hours after the first notification, we began packing and palletizing our equipment. My squad mates and I watched in complete disbelief the replays of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center building," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. DeMarr Thomas, 1-228 Aviation Regiment Headquarter, Headquarters Company commander.
"I was working for Merck & Co. at the time and their training for us was in East Brunswick, N.J. Someone came running into the classroom and said a plane had hit one of the towers in New York. Our group had rooms on the top floor of the hotel where the training was so we all went to the top where we could see across the water...We saw the towers fall and the cloud of smoke and debris was horrific," said U.S. Army Cap. Cindy Leonardi, certified registered nurse assistant assigned to the JTF-Bravo Medical Element.
Despite the chaos and communication barriers, the world soon knew about the attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downing of a fourth aircraft in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"I was listening to the radio while driving to work when I heard the news about the attack to the first tower. I went into my office and the first thing I did was turn on the TV to find out more. I couldn't believe what I was hearing... I started praying for all the people involved," said Ms. Janet Zelaya, Joint Task Force-Bravo command group protocol assistant.
That night, President Bush delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring, "terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."
"The next day was the most noticeable change. American flags started appearing, neighbors started talking, many stepped foot in church for the first time in years. The overwhelming sense of unity of America was in full effect; and the hustle and bustle of everyday life was put aside temporarily and all were united as American patriots," reminisced U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson, 612 Air Base Squadron CGA Watch Supervisor.
The constantly changing personnel at Joint Task Force-Bravo every 6 - 12 months presents a unique challenge to carry on the tradition of honoring those who gave their lives in service to their fellow citizens and country. However, the strong desire to foster this honorable ritual will continue to grow.
The attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downing the fourth aircraft in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 forever marked a new era in the United States. Although it's a tragic event that will always echo in our history, it's important that we never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.