Fire and police officials and civilians from around East Jefferson County marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with flags and a moment of silence.
Brief ceremonies honored the first responders who served at the sites attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ceremonies across the North Olympic Peninsula marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorists attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, as well as the fatal crash of a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.
In Sequim, Mark Abshire, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who was at the time of the terrorist attacks a speechwriter for the Secretary of the Air Force working at the Pentagon, told a group of people at the Sequim Civic Center plaza about hearing a deafening sound on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I thought it was a bomb; I felt the shock wave,” Abshire, a Port Townsend native who is now the executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, recalled.
While the immediate details of the horror of what became known as 9/11 hadn’t yet been realized, “each one of us knew something had changed forever.” he said
On Friday morning, Abshire joined local police officers, firefighters, other responders and community members in recognizing 9/11 on the eve of the event’s 20th anniversary with a ceremony at the Sequim Civic Center plaza.
“We must always remember,” said Abshire, the keynote speaker.
“We honor those who lost their lives and we also honor those who survived the attacks … (those) who put themselves in harm’s way to save others, many of whom they never knew,” he said.
100 in PA
At noon Saturday, a crowd of about 100 people gathered under cloudy skies with light drizzle at 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park in Port Angeles.
The ceremony was centered around a plaza containing a memorial to public safety officers situated across from a monument created from a steel girder salvaged from the wreckage of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Public safety representatives spoke about their observations of the terrorist attacks of 2001 in a ceremony that contained inspirational music, a flag line of American Legion riders and a bagpiper.
Brian King, chief criminal deputy with the Clallam County Sheriff’s office, told the crowd that the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 gave way immediately to a sense of American unity that brought the country together.
“I never ever want another 9/11,” he said, “but I miss the America on 9/12.
“Flags were flown everywhere and we were united. People were Americans first — we helped people without caring about their political beliefs.
“On 9/12 what mattered more was that what united us was greater than what divided us.”
Alan Barnard, who helped create the memorial park and organize the remembrance event, said that Americans need to keep a sense of perspective on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Clearly it’s important that if we don’t remember 9/11, we may allow it to happen again,” he said. “So keeping it in our minds and in our hearts and being ever vigilant, we’ll go a long ways toward protecting the American people and our country.”
Abshire was one of about 18,000 staffers working in the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashed into the structure, killing all 64 aboard and another 125 people in the building.
He said there is no doubt in his mind passengers aboard the flight were able to down the plane and minimize the toll on life.
“Pieces of the building would have landed on my desk,” he said. He recalled hearing the fourth and fifth floors of the structure collapsing as he walked home.
“I came home to screams of joy that I was alive,” he said.
Sequim’s ceremony included comments from Sequim Police Chief Sherri Crain and Clallam County Fire District 3 Chief Ben Andrews, as well as City Council members Keith Larkin and Rachel Anderson.
Abshire urged those in attendance in Sequim to spend less time in factious political debate and resurrect the spirit of the days following the 9/11 attacks.
’We all came together; we helped each other, we were kind,” Abshire said.
The most enduring memorial for 9/11, he said, is to “ensure the America we all love stays that way.
“America is not a building that can be burned or destroyed,” Abshire said. “Doing so only has the effect of strengthening the heart and soul of America.”
This story ws compiled from reports by Sequim Gazette Editor Michael Dashiell, Peninsula Daily News Photojournalist Keith Thorpe, and the PDN Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz.