As in years past, a crowd gathered around the courthouse square in Fredericktown on Sept. 11 to hear the story of the events of that day 19 years ago and to honor the country's brave first responders.
"Thank you for coming today to remember those that gave their lives on this day 19 years ago and those that are still suffering this day from injuries received from the dark moment in history on September 11, 2001," Madison County Deputy Clerk Rebecca Blackman said. "The support today from the Fredericktown Fire Department, Fredericktown Police Department, Madison County Sheriff's Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Madison County Emergency 911, Madison County Ambulance District, Fredericktown Black Cat JROTC Battalion and all other first responders is truly appreciated."
The court square was closed to traffic as the Fredericktown Black Cat JROTC came forward for the Presentation of Colors. Then, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Barb Huffman sang the National Anthem.
Madison County Deputy Collector Sarah Garcia then began to tell the story of the 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaida and the four airplanes they hijacked in order to carry out suicide attacks against the United States.
"At 8:45 a.m. on that clear morning, American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City," Garcia said. "Eighteen minutes later Flight 175, a United Airlines Boeing 767 crashed into the South Tower."
Garcia said many people were instantly killed or trapped in those buildings.
"First responders were quickly on the scene but many perished in the fire and collapse of the buildings," Garcia said. "At 9:45 a.m., as many of us watched those towers crumbling to the ground another plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing 125 military personnel along with 64 people aboard the airliner."
Garcia said 40 minutes later the fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after some of the passengers and crew overpowered the hijackers.
"There were a total of 2,996 killed in the attacks, including 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes," Garcia said. "Several first responders have died since the attacks due to complications of wounds, smoke inhalation and PTSD."
Garcia said President George W. Bush addressed the country that night and then on Oct. 7, 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom began searching for the leader of Al-Qaida, Osama Bin Laden.
"Bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011," Garcia said. "Al-Qaida and the Taliban has diminished but still exists. The war on terrorism continues even today, 18 years later."
Garcia said on Dec. 18, 2001, Congress approved naming Sept. 11 as Patriot Day to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. She said in 2019, Congress also declared Sept. 11 as National Day of Service and Remembrance.
"We should always remember those that died working in those places and aboard those airplanes that day," Garcia said. "We should never forget the ultimate sacrifice those first responders made trying to save those trapped in those buildings and we should never forget those in the military service that have died in the war on terrorism since that day."
The crowd was hushed as everyone remembered where they were and what they were doing during that moment in 2001. A grateful appreciation for the first responders, both around the country and standing among the crowd, could be felt as Madison County Clerk Don Firebaugh took to the podium to end with a poem, by Roger J Robicheau, and prayer.
"We mourn their loss this day," Firebaugh said. "Those now with God, no danger near. So many loved ones left do stand, confronting loss throughout our land. I firmly pray for peace of mind, dear God please help each one to find. And to our soldiers now at war, God guide above, at sea, on shore. One final thought comes clear to me, for what must live in infamy. Absolutely, we'll remember, the eleventh of September."
Firebaugh said a prayer placing the thousands of innocent lives lost on that unforgettable day into the loving arms of God. He said they will always remember the courage of the countless men and women who put their lives at risk in order to rescue, alleviate and bring solace to the afflicted.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at email@example.com
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