Nine years ago today, American citizens were stunned, horrified and outraged in quick succession when four terrorist-hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
A total of 2,977 people were killed and more than 6,000 were injured. The country has never been the same.
The War on Terror was launched, homeland security became a new watchword, and the sense of protection Americans enjoyed melted away in the televised or viewed-in-person carnage of explosive jet fuel and twisted steel.
The nation observes the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks today. U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter paid tribute yesterday to those who perished and the 2 million service members who have deployed since September 2001 to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in answer to the nation’s call.
More than 500 soldiers in camouflage uniforms were arrayed at historic Palm Circle in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony that included a moment of silence, a single bagpiper’s rendition of "Amazing Grace," taps, a cannon salute and the lowering of the American flag.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, recognized the contributions of American service members in the ensuing War on Terror, some of whom have served five or more times in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"These warriors and their families have made numerous sacrifices to preserve and defend the freedom and liberty for America and her allies," Mixon told those assembled. "And many of the brave warriors who answered their nation’s call have paid the ultimate sacrifice, while many others bear the psychological and physical scars of war."
Mixon added that, "Ours has been a longer fight than World War II, but we are making progress." He noted the change in mission in Iraq from one of combat to stability operations.
Mixon in 2002 went into Afghanistan with the 18th Airborne Corps.
Master Sgt. Arlette Farrish, now 45, watched on TV at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida as the second plane crashed into the twin towers.
"Words were beyond me," she recalled. "It just seemed like a movie."
Master Sgt. Jerry Queen, 40, was laid up on the couch with a broken leg from an airborne jump at Fort Bragg, N.C., and he saw the coverage on CNN.
"I think when the second plane hit, everyone was like, ‘Whoah, this wasn’t an accident,’" Queen said. "I was calling my unit — are we loading up? Going somewhere (in response)?"
The attacks rippled across the nation, and in Hawaii, long car lines snaked outside military bases with suddenly heightened security, armed Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 fighters escorted inbound commercial flights, and Navy ships were ordered out of Pearl Harbor.
Gov. Linda Lingle proclaimed today’s anniversary to be Patriot Day and Day of Service and Remembrance in Hawaii, reflecting a similar national proclamation.
All Hawaii and American flags will be flown at half-staff on state, county and federal buildings today.
COMMEMORATIVE WALK TO BE HELD AT 5:30 P.M.
The public is invited to participate in the fifth annual Remembrance Walk at 5:30 p.m. today in observance of the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The walk will be led by the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii. Participants should gather at Honolulu Police Department headquarters, 801 S. Beretania St. Marchers will then proceed makai on Alapai Street to the Honolulu Fire Department, at South and Queen streets, for a second ceremony. The procession will then move makai to Halekauwila Street and then mauka on Punchbowl Street to Honolulu Hale for a formal ceremony.
The program at Honolulu Hale will take place at the eternal flame on the front lawn. The service will include wreath-laying and recognition of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department and Department of Emergency Management. There will be music by John Valentine and Rocky Brown and the Royal Hawaiian Band.
Participants are encouraged to bring flashlights. Parking will be available at the Civic Center parking structure; enter from South Beretania Street.