By Braedon Martin / Staff Writer
Sept. 11, 2001 – a date that forever lives in the hearts and minds of most Americans.
The day that marks the greatest terror attack ever performed on United States soil, in which four planes were hijacked, and intended to be used against targets in New York and Washington. Two planes hit both towers of the World Trade Center. One plane hit the Pentagon, and one plane was valiantly retaken by its passengers, missing whatever its target was and crashing in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 20 years ago.
More than 3,000 people were killed
Jeff Deal, Hutchinson Community College fire science instructor and organizer of a yearly 9/11 remembrance ceremony, vividly remembers what he experienced 20 years ago.
“This was a day that is set in infamy … it really set the trajectory of our country,” said Deal, a former McPherson Fire Chief.
The ceremony included HutchCC fire science students performing a “Missing Man” formation, adapted from an Air Force flight maneuver to serve a similar purpose on the ground. Students lay an empty set of bunker gear at the base of the flagpole, before lowering an American flag to half mast in remembrance of the 343 firefighters that died on that day.
“On 9/11, because of the impact that it had on those of us that were firefighters, we made a promise that we would never forget,” Deal said. “And the thing about firefighters is that we don’t give our promises lightly, but when we make a promise, we keep it. We will keep our promises, and we will remember every year no matter what it takes because we made that promise.”
Deal said the reasoning behind the yearly ceremony, and why it is so important that America never forgets what happened on that day.
“It’s important because ultimately our goal is to lay down our life for others, especially when something as big as this happens to us,” Deal said.
Many HutchCC fire science students were born after 9/11.
“It’s important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice just for the chance that others may live, and that alone is worth never forgetting,” said Jacob Younger, Hutchinson sophomore and one of the members of the Missing Man formation, and aspiring firefighter.
The ceremony was followed by a Deal speech, where he spoke about why those in attendance, as firefighters, should never forget what happened on 9/11.
“This country still needs heroes. A hero is a person that is ready to lay down their life for someone else,” Deal said. “Those 343 who laid down their lives that day are heroes. They gave everything. Are you ready to do that?”In the 20 years since the attacks on 9/11, children have been born and raised in a society still feeling the aftershocks of those attacks. Some of those children have decided, now that they are grown, to follow in the footsteps of the 343 firefighters that died while saving the lives of others.