Ceremonies commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon building in Virginia and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, took place across the country and state on Saturday.
Deputy Chief Dan Grimes organized a service at Central Emergency Services in Soldotna and Soldotna City Council member Dave Carey led a 9/11 march to honor the lives lost that morning 20 years ago.
The mood was somber Saturday morning at CES, Grimes said, as the on-shift crew prepared to pay their respects to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
Grimes said he remembers the day of the attacks well. He was working for the Fairbanks International Airport at the time, he said, when he got the call that the twin towers had fallen.
“We had just finished training the night before … so I was home asleep,” Grimes said. “And I, like probably a lot of people, I got that phone call: ‘Go turn on your TV.’”
The shock of witnessing the attacks on TV didn’t hit him immediately, he said. But when it did, it hit hard.
“Watching the tower fall one after the other was the most gut-wrenching thing,” Grimes said. “You just knew, for 100% fact, that a terrible tragedy just occurred.”
He said it seemed like a lot of people united after the 9/11 attacks.
“In the hours after that are little groups of us meeting up, just sharing a moment,” Grimes said. “That camaraderie of grief, that forms when you’re sharing the same trauma.”
He led the small ceremony at CES to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks.
Grimes spoke about the importance of maintaining the legacy of those who died during the attack. He also emphasized the need for unity, particularly now when it seems the country is divided.
“Now here we are 20 years later, and I would say that we’re not more troubled than that day, but just as divided and broken in ways,” he said during the ceremony. “And yet here we stand together … the unity of our mission always rings through. That’s the piece that will bring us together.”
The crew at CES, as well as a few community members, toward the end of the ceremony placed a garden of United States flags outside the building to honor the more than 400 first responders who lost their lives on 9/11.
Another group met at City Hall on Saturday morning for a 9/11 flag march to Soldotna Creek Park. Council member Carey planned the gathering.
The crowd of 14 marched south on Birch Street from City Hall to the Veterans of Foreign Affairs parking lot, where they sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” From there, they continued to Farnsworth Park to sing “America the Beautiful” and made their way to Soldotna Creek Park where they sang “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee).”
Carey spoke about the importance of learning history, supporting the armed services and bringing up the next generation to be respectful.
“We are a very patriotic community, and I hope each of you know that because you are part of it,” he said to the group. “It is just wonderful to live here.”
Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney closed Saturday’s ceremony by reading the city council’s 9/11 remembrance resolution presented at Soldotna’s Wednesday council meeting.
“As we approach the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack committed against the United States on September 11, 2001, the Soldotna City Council expresses their support for remembrance of that tragic day,” Whitney read. “And whereas 20 years later, people around the world continue to mourn the tremendous loss of innocent life on that fateful day.”