Twenty years ago this past weekend, America changed forever following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and a fourth hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
The Flint Hills Volunteer Center hosted a 9/11 Day of Remembrance Ceremony at City Park Friday night to honor those lives lost in the attack and the subsequent conflict that followed. Multiple speakers talked to the men and women who lost their lives that day, as well as those who served in the past two decades.
Riley County Health Department Julie Gibbs spoke to the front line men and women who not only saved lived on 9/11, but also worked through the pandemic.
Gibbs compared the pandemic to the events of 9/11 as the community has come together during this past year. She says everyone who was honored at the event has the same goal in common; to protect the safety of the community members.
Gibbs says she is truly grateful to have worked among some of the most intelligent and caring individuals.
After Gibbs’ speech, Fort Riley Chief of Staff Colonel Paul Krattiger spoke. He says while this was a dark day in American history, what came after was nothing short of amazing.
Krattiger says the nation saw three generations of soldiers fight in this war, with it all coming to an end last month. He continued saying as this chapter on American history closes, this is the time to remember all of those who served and sacrificed their lives since then.
Krattiger took a moment of silence to honor those 13 servicemen and women who lost their lives during the evacuation.
Next, was Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Schmidt says 9/11 is one of those dates where people remember where they were and what they were doing.
Schmidt says this community especially remember the events that followed those first fateful days due to the presence of Fort Riley. With all of those memories and loved ones to reflect on, Schmidt ended his speech with these words.
Schmidt thanked all of those who came out after a one year hiatus due to the pandemic last year. He then introduced the guest speaker of the evening, Retired Marine Corps Lt. Colonel Robert Darling.
Darling, at the time of the 9/11 events, was working for the White House Military Office , Airlift Operations Department. He gave his firsthand account being in the presidential bunker during the attacks.
Darling’s job that day was to get logistics of what was going on in New York, at the Pentagon, and in the sky. He was joined by former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center under the White House.
Darling was part of the team that informed President Bush who was in charge of the attack and the two options for retaliation; a missile strike or boots on the ground.
Darling closed his speech Friday thanking those in attendance for supporting the men and women in uniform and the first responders in our communities.
You can hear Darling’s entire first hand account of the events here below.