When people reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, many ask others “Where were you?” said Staff Sgt. Eduardo Figueroa, of the U.S Marine Corps.
“Where were you when our nation was attacked and our freedom was threatened?” Figueroa asked. “Well, I remember, just like many millions of Americans across our nation on this 20th anniversary of 9/11. I remember.”
Two decades after the Sept. 11 attacks, people gathered at Union Cemetery in Crystal Lake on Saturday, to remember the people who died and survived, as well as to urge those present to “never forget” what happened that day.
“Sept. 11 is a day that changed our lives forever,” Figueroa said. “9/11 is the reason I fight for my country. Twenty years later, that fire still burns inside of me, like it does with many Americans.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Ryan Yantis, who was the event’s keynote speaker, was at the Pentagon the morning of 9/11. He was a public affairs officer in the Army.
Wearing the same uniform he was wearing that day twenty years ago, Yantis said he will always remember the innocent children, women and men who died that day, the people who fell or jumped to their deaths, and all the people, of all faiths and nationalities, who suffered that day.
Yantis remembers the months leading up to the attack, which he said were filled with much partisan bickering.
“At that time, I remember being more concerned about our unity and our health as a nation,” he said. “The people that I was around seemed to be too busy arguing with each other, talking over each other, all breathless in their anger and frustration. And then, starting at 8:46 on the morning of Sept. 11, that all changed.”
But, what Yantis also remembers is seeing people putting themselves at risk to help total strangers in the aftermath of the attacks.
“I remember seeing people band together and work together in very tough, demanding conditions to help ease the pain and suffering of others,” he said.
During the ceremony, American Legion Commander Charlie Morgan of Post 171 told those present to make note of the “Four Fields of Honor” at the cemetery. The first field of flags represents fallen men and women from the Revolutionary War through the War on Terror. The second represents 9/11, and the 2,977 who died. In the third field, the 403 first responders who died on 9/11 are honored.
Flags in the fourth field are a representation of a recent tragedy: the 13 fallen U.S. Marines, Soldiers, and Corpsmen who died after two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport in August during the evacuation effort in Afghanistan. The attack killed 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, the Associated Press reported.
We owe it to the men and women who died and survived in 9/11 to remember their legacy, Morgan said.
“I fear Sept. 11 is fading from our memories,” Morgan said. “Hundreds of families still suffer the gaping holes, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, and even a child is no longer with them. ... I know those of you who are not directly affected by these attacks are at a disadvantage. But I submit to you that as painful as it may be, it is sometimes a good thing to remember such events in this fashion.”