Hundreds of people came out to mark 20 years since the 9/11 attacks on the flight deck of the San Diego landmark the USS Midway Saturday—this event was limited to just a livestream last year due to the pandemic. Organizers say the ceremony was a way to honor the nation’s promise to “never forget” the fallen heroes of that day.
The event was attended by members of the Fire Department of New York Retirees of San Diego, the National City Fire Department, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, the Wounded Warrior Project and flight crews from both United and American airlines.
Both servicemembers and volunteers paid tribute to the fallen with a helicopter flyover, 21-gun salute and bagpipe performance of amazing grace before the names of fallen first responders were read aloud.
Many of the speakers said even though it’s been two decades since the horrific attacks -- pain is as raw as if 9/11 happened yesterday.
Retired New York City Firefighter Brennan Savage says he watched as the Twin Towers fell with 19 of his colleagues still inside.
“A very good friend of mine Steve Belson ladder 24 was on the 65th floor, my comfort was that he didn’t suffer, it was quick never found anything of him, nothing,” Savage said.
Retired Orange County Firefighters Mark Hawkins and Don Forsyth both lost friends – who they still call brothers – and say remembering that day never gets easier.
“One foot in front of the other day by day and faith gets you through it…those guys died doing what they do best and they’ve got a crop of new guys that are rising to the cause,” Hawkins said.
Forsyth lost what he calls his dear friend and mentor who he did ride alongs with in New York for over 100 days for National Fire Academy Rescue training.
They say 9/11 can be a lesson to a new generation and say remembering is the key to keeping a promise made two decades ago today.
“We all need to look for something to take away from this…we could easily focus on what happened before in a positive way and use this 20th anniversary to recreate the unity that came out of this event 20 years ago and I believe this country really needs to come together now,” Forsyth said.
“Freedom isn’t free… and if you don’t remember you’re doomed to repeat.” Hawkins said. “Never forget.”