Under a gray sky and a light mist of rain, community members and elected officials gathered together at the Prince William County Liberty Memorial to remember and honor those lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The brief ceremony marked the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors Corey Stewart spoke during the ceremony and said the pain of that day remains, but Americans endure now as they did then.
"As we stand together today, we stood together on Sept. 11, 2001, as we felt the shock, horror and pain of what was happening to our other brothers and sisters in New York, Pennsylvania and Arlington and felt the shock, horror and pain of what was happening to our country. We stood together to provide support, companionship and comfort to try to help heal the wounds that were cut so deep that day. We stood together as Americans," Stewart said.
"The United States lost nearly 3,000 people that day –fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, aunts, uncles, friends and co-workers. We also lost our sense of security and safety. But we came together to become even stronger and more united in who we are – one nation, indivisible," Stewart added.
Prince William County lost 22 people on that day, more than any other community in the region. To honor and remember them and the nearly 3,000 others killed in the attacks that day, Lieutenant Jeff Howdyshell of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department performed the tolling of the bell during today's ceremony. Stewart explained that the bell ringing was a fire-and-rescue custom brought forward from the days before telephones and radios.
"When a firefighter died in the line of duty, the Fire Alarm Office, the forerunner of today's 9-1-1 call centers, would "tap out" a special signal - "Five-Five-Five" – five measured dashes and then a pause, five measured dashes and then a pause, and then five more dashes. This became known as the Tolling of the Bell. The Fire and Rescue service continues this honored tradition today."
The ceremony concluded with a moment of silence and the playing of "Taps."
Luke Owens, a U.S. Army retiree, attended the ceremony and said he was thinking of the innocent people that were lost that day. "You have to remember. You can't wipe it from your mind. For all practical purposes, this was our invasion like Pearl Harbor."
Doris Harris, of the Prince William Resolves Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said the ceremony touched her. "It's so emotional. It brings tears."
During the ceremony, Stewart read the names of those county residents who died on 9/11:
Sergeant First Class John J. Chada, U.S. Army, Retired
Petty Officer Third Class Jamie L. Fallon, U.S. Navy
Amelia V. Fields
Lt. Col. Robert J. Hymel, U.S. Air Force, Retired
Sergeant Major Lacey B. Ivory, U.S. Army
Judith L. Jones
David W. Laychak
James T. Lynch, Jr.
Gene E. Maloy
Robert J. Maxwell
Molly L. McKenzie
Craig J. Miller
Diana B. Padro
Rhonda S. Rasmussen
Edward V. Rowenhorst
Donald D. Simmons
Jeff L. Simpson
Cheryle D. Sincock
Chief Information Systems Technician Gregg H. Smallwood, U.S. Navy
Sergeant Major Larry L. Strickland, U.S. Army
Sandra L. White
Located between the Prince William Parkway and James J. McCoart Administration Building, the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on May 9, 2006, to honor those who died on 9/11. The shape of the reflecting pool and walkway recall those lost at the Pentagon. The two columns of water in the fountain represent the thousands of lives lost at the World Trade Center in New York City. The stone that encircles the fountain is Pennsylvania flagstone, a tribute to those who died in Pennsylvania. The single stone to the left of the plaque is an original limestone block from the collapsed portion of the Pentagon. The flag pole standing is the one that James T. Lynch, Jr., who was killed during the attack on the Pentagon, erected at his Prince William County home. And across the street is a sculpture made out of steel beams from the World Trade Center, which shows the resilience of the American people, even when faced with such tragic circumstances on our own soil.
To watch today's ceremony, visit www.youtube.com/princewilliamcounty. More information about the county's memorials is available at www.pwcgov.org/memorials.