Last Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. The Bremerton community recognized the somber anniversary with a ceremony held at the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial at Evergreen Rotary Park.
Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler remarked upon the memorial, stating, “The 9/11 memorial that stands here at Evergreen Rotary Park is a testament to the tragedy and courage that happened 20 years ago.”
The memorial, which was dedicated in 2013, consists of bent metal beams from the fallen towers, a broken piece of the Pentagon’s exterior, and soil preserved from the field in Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 crashed. “Today, on the 20th anniversary, we remember the victims, recognize the survivors and families, and honor the rescue and recovery workers,” Wheeler said. “We pay tribute to the men and the women who have served in the armed forces overseas and at home to protect our country and to keep us safe. We also remember the resilience of the American spirit in the hours and the weeks that followed.”
People from all over the U.S. did what they could to help in the face of the attacks, Wheeler noted. For example, the public donated over $1.8 billion to aid those impacted by the attack, and many people donated blood while others collected food and supplies, he said. More than 181,000 Americans signed up for active duty military service in the year following 9/11, and nearly 73,000 joined the enlisted reserves, he said.
“The 9/11 memorial at Evergreen Park serves as a powerful reminder to all of us to never forget what happened, and stands as an enduring message about the strength and determination of our nation,” Wheeler said. “As President George Bush said in his address to the country on Sept. 11, 2001, ‘America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, and no one will keep that light from shining.’”
Jeff Faucett, fire chief of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue, said the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, “will forever be etched in the fiber of our nation’s history.” As a young firefighter himself, he witnessed first responders risking their own lives to save the lives of others.
“What they didn’t know is that before they started that shift, before they left their homes, there was a group of people that were planning to tear apart our country,” he said. “The plans were in motion that morning that would change the trajectory of our country’s history.”
Faucett said he’s often asked by members of the community what they can do to help first responders. “First,” he said, “we should embrace our first responders and support them. Better training and education is needed for mental wellness. Support for counseling and preventative care is urgent and leadership must understand this hidden danger that’s lurking in our organizations.” He said statistics show a rise in suicides among first responders.
“Looking ahead as a community, we should never forget what happened on 9/11 and the sacrifices that were made,” he said. “We should also take the lessons learned and support our first responders; help them when they’re stressed, care for them when they need it, shake their hands when they do something good, and ensure their support for them when a crisis should occur in their lives. We can all do something to help our first responders and it’s not just our first responders. Those who have worked tirelessly over the last 20 years in foreign conflict and war, we should be helping them as well.
“Every major event in our nation’s history, we should be able to look back and learn from that event,” he continued. “Sept. 11 is no different for any of us. We must look back and see what we can learn from that mark in our history. We’re grateful for the extreme sacrifices that were made 20 years ago in New York City, at the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93.”
Roy Lusk, retired fire chief of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue, emphasized the heroism of the first responders who responded to the attack, and introduced a ceremonial bell-ringing that honored the lives of those who were lost.
“While I’m retired and no longer an active member of the fire service, I wear the uniform today out of dignity and respect for the active members and those of the past,” he said. “The fire service as in many other organizations is very rich in tradition, custom and ceremony. One such tradition is the use of bells to issue alarms, to relay messages within the fire service.”
Each type of alarm would have its own number and series of bell strikes, he said. When a firefighter died in the line of duty, headquarters would ring bells to transmit the message.
“My research has shown that FDNY has, since its creation, utilized the ringing of five bells repeated four times — or more commonly referred to as the ‘striking of the four fives’ — as a means of rendering final honors. With this in mind, I suggest to you that we once again strike the four fives, as I believe it to be a proper and fitting tribute to the fallen FDNY members of that day as well as the 2,977 innocent lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the life lost since that day.”
Captain Jip Mosman, commander of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, praised the community for coming together to remember the events of 9/11. “It says a lot about the deep-connected roots and patriotism here given that we’re all taking the time to be together here right now commemorating this significant event,” he said.
Although the memory of the attack may feel fresh in the minds of those who lived through it, it’s important to pass down the memory to younger generations, Mosman said.
“We’re now at a point in time where our remembrance of Sept. 11 is as important to pass down to our children as it is to our own healing process as a nation,” he said, noting that children born after Sept. 11 are now sophomores and juniors in college, and that many are themselves serving in uniform around the globe. Mosman said his own children, ages 9 and 12, were born years after the attack. “For me, it’s important that they learn to honor the legacy of those lost and hear their stories so that Sept. 11 doesn’t become just another paragraph in the history books.”
In recalling memories of the attack that colleagues had shared with him, Mosman spoke of recollections of a shipyard hyper-focused on security, with on-base parking curtailed and thorough bag and security checks taking place at entrance gates. “It could take hours to get into the shipyard with lines spanning well into the city of Bremerton,” Mosman said. “And nearly all these people remarked that no one seemed to complain about the inconveniences.”
“For many people at the shipyard and in the Bremerton community, there was a renewed sense of pride in the vital role they played in our nation’s defense,” he continued. “As the shipyard became increasingly busy in the months that followed in an effort to get submarines and ships back out to sea as quickly as possible, everyone here pulled together like a family — the shipyard family, the military family, the Kitsap County family, the Puget Sound family — all together. This is the family I see in front of me today. First responders, police officers, firefighters, citizens of Bremerton and the surrounding areas, military, government, families, adults and children. Our shared resilience and fortitude helped us move forward and it will help us overcome any challenges we may face in the future. I am confident of that.”