Today is the day Americans pause and remember the losses, the pain, the chaos of September 11, 2001. Memorial services are taking place all over the country, not just in the places where the jets hijacked by terrorists went down.
Here in Albuquerque, the 11th anniversary of this solemn day was marked with a gathering featuring the governor and mayor at a new fire station still under construction. Fire Station 2 is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives on September 11. The theme for the ceremony was Rebuilding For The Future And Honoring Our Fallen Heroes. The start time of 8:46 a.m. (local time) was the moment the first airplane hit the North Tower.
The event, which you can view on the YouTube video associated with this blog post, started with the presentation of the colors, the singing of the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance. Every speaker offered thanks to those who came together to remember and salute those who died, those who serve in the fire and police departments and the military, and for the rebuilding of the United States.
In the invocation offered by Albuquerque Fire Department Senior Chaplain Lt. Jerome Rael, he said, “Greater love has no one than this than has laid down his life for his friends… Almighty God, in ancient days, you are the author of life and salvation from whom every good gift and blessings come. We acknowledge your presence today as we commemorate and honor the memory of the fallen. We also remember the victims and their families. Today may we put into action our faith, works and love in memory of the fallen and honor the military who continue to fight and protect our freedoms at home and abroad… We thank you that good will always overcome evil… Grant us the wisdom and courage to look forward with hope and purpose and unswerving resolve in building toward the future by learning from the past and living in the application and light of your wisdom in the present. Amen”
Governor Susana Martinez spoke first. “It is hard to believe that today marks the 11th anniversary of the tragedy that came to be known as 9-11… We also pause to remember the brave men and women who courageously put their lives at risk in order to protect our nation from future threats. Eleven years ago, not only did our fellow citizens come under attack, so did our way of life as we knew it, and our freedom.”
“These acts of terror were intended to frighten us, to divide us, to drive us into retreat. But the United States of America is far too resilient to let this attack bully us into submission. Our nation and our people have met terror with valor, threats with resolve, and we’ve confronted tyranny with liberty… God bless those men and women in uniform that protect us and live among us every day. Thank you for all that you do. God bless America. ”
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry spoke next. He revealed that he has a flag with the names of all who died on September 11, 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. “I have it in my workshop because that’s where I go to be by myself, to reflect, to have a little quiet time, to build stuff… We are a nation of builders: buildings, democracies, trust, dreams, and builders of the future. One World Trade Center is a perfect example and metaphor for this great nation’s ability to overcome challenges and enemies regardless of the initial attacks.”
The 104-story new building will stand 1776 feet tall, signifying the year of our declaration of independence. “It stands for our resilience, our resolve, our dedication, and our refusal to give in to those who want to see our way of life destroyed. We are a great nation, and we will continue to help each other heal, find courage hope and we will rebuild. Because terrorists may have gotten in a cheap shot, but the American people will not be kept down. We will never stop remembering and we will never stop rebuilding.”
City Council President Trudy Jones recalled how the nation stood still in shock when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. That autumn day is seared into our common memory. “Eleven years ago today, our world was forever changed one more time,” she said. “Each of us has our own personal memories of that horrible day. Whatever those memories, whatever those connections, 9-11 is and always will be part of who we are as individuals, as Americans, and as citizens of this world.”
Albuquerque Police Chief Raymond Schultz noted, “We may never know how many lives were saved that day, but we do know that it was firefighters and policemen who didn’t stop and ask whether or not they should go inside. They didn’t stop and say, ‘It’s not my job.’ They did as they were trained and responded as we expected them to.”
“What we saw in New York, in Washington and in Shanksville in 2001 is nothing different than we see here in Albuquerque each and every day… We don’t ask many questions, we respond, knowing we are prepared to deal with whatever we may find… We only want to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Colonel John Kubinec, 377th Air Base Wing Commander spoke on behalf of the military. “Thank you for your support of our men and women in uniform. When I think of September 11, 2011, I think of places. I think of numbers. I think of faces.”
Some of those numbers are staggering: Almost 3,000 innocent victims and heroic first responders in 2001. 4,488 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who gave their lives in Iraq. 1,987 who gave their lives in Afghanistan. More than 17,000 wounded in those two wars.
He thinks of faces and names of people and the memories of those killed in the service of our country. He recounted memories of rendering final salutes to those making their journey back to the U.S. in a flag-draped coffin. “Let us never forget those who serve today, are in harms way right now, here and abroad, and always honor them,” he said.
Fire Chief James Breen said that this fire station under construction is dedicated to the memory of all who have served and provided public safety. The construction industry was instrumental in working with first responders to rescue the living and retrieve the dead. The American flag flying over the construction site is flying there for the first time. It was raised and lowered to half staff for this one day. It will fly there again when the station opens officially later this year.
At the end of the service, Briane Dennison, APD Chaplain, offered words from Psalm 107: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. Faithful love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim that he has redeemed them from the hand of the foe… Gracious father, we do give thanks to you today, for you are a good God. And though we are here eleven years later, you were present there at Ground Zero and you are present here today… We see that freedom still reigns, that this nation still stands as a beacon of freedom… We pray for those hearts that are still sorrowful for the losses of 9-11. May we always pay tribute to those who died by living courageously, and living a life that gives honor unto you.”
After the invocation, several doves were released to mark the end of the service. This was one of the few memorial services not followed by a reception with food and drink. We will always remember this day.