The rain fell for the first time in 36 days on Sept. 12. Someone at Rock Island Arsenall in Illinois, commented that it could be tears.
Whatever it was, the day was as different as the unusual weather, for it was the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
The Rock Island Arsenal community marked the solemn occasion with a 9-11 Dedication and Remembrance ceremony to honor all those who died that day and those who died or were wounded as a result of the two wars that followed. They also paid tribute to all the heroes involved in rescue efforts.
As of Sept. 5, a total of 9,703 people have died. Another 30,613 have been wounded in action, some with life-altering injuries.
The guest speaker was Col. Daniel Mitchell, deputy commanding officer, Army Sustainment Command. Mitchell was in the Pentagon when the attack on America’s defense fortress took place.
“Twelve years ago today, the world as we know it changed forever,” Mitchell said. “And unlike previous conflicts and wars, there is no peace treaty, no armistice, no collapse of a superpower — the threat is still there,” citing the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Mitchell said that we “must recommit” to protecting America’s freedoms.
“I was in the Pentagon and lost many friends. The crucible events I lived through since then have made me a better person and officer,” explained Mitchell, who has served two tours in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, and who has 28 years of service.
“You all have been shaped and refined by the events that have happened since then; 9-11 is personal to us, it changed us,” he said. “The terrorists meant it for bad, but we, as a nation, showed them how good people are supposed to react. Just as World War II produced the great generation, 9-11 produced the next great generation.”
Mitchell thanked first responders, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians. He also said a “debt of gratitude” is owed to all branches of the armed forces.
“I saw many soldiers write those letters to their loved ones before they went off on dangerous missions, like Fallujah (Iraq),” he said. “Knowing they might die, they went anyway, seemingly fearless, and performed their jobs.”
Mitchell said that while those people who died leave our hearts with wounds that cannot completely heal, the U.S. became stronger as a nation and as a people.
“The events of 9-11 sparked a sense of pride and patriotism in all Americans, and showed us that — despite our differences — we stood united when it came to shared values,” he said.