Community gathers to remember events of 9/11

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From left to right; Colonel Kevin Lambert , Senior Corps Director Deborah Cox-Roush, Former CIA Executive Chuck Banks, Governor Lori Kelly, Flint Hills Volunteer Center Executive Director Lori Bishop, and KSU PD Chief Ronnie Grice (Sam Hennigh/KMAN)

A ceremony was held Wednesday evening at Manhattan’s Bishop Stadium to remember those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011.

The event was put on by the Flint Hills Volunteer Center, Senior Core and the Senior Core RSVP program to honor area first-responders. The Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division Band played during the ceremony and the Commanding General’s Color Guard presented the colors.

K-State Police Department Chief Ronnie Grice was the master of ceremonies.  He opened the event with recognition of the local emergency response workers from both Riley and Pottawatomie Counties.

After this introduction, Reverend Louis O’Smith Sr. of the Manhattan First Free Methodist Church gave the invocation.

“Give us the strength to face the memory of the attack and the changes it made in our lives,” says O’Smith.

Grice then recalled where he was on that fateful day and that he has incoming recruits who were born after the events of 9/11.

Colonel Kevin Lambert

After Grice spoke, Retired Army Brigadier General Bill Turner gave his story of being at the Pentagon when one of the planes hit.  He and his wife, Alyssa, were both stationed there at the time.  The plane had hit where Alyssa’s office was located, but was lucky as she had stepped out only 15 minutes before the plane had hit.

Governor Laura Kelly then spoke about her recollection of that day.  She says she was getting ready for work when she had heard of the first plane hitting the tower on the radio, then turned on the TV to see what was happening.  As a native to New York City, she would take her friends from out of town to see the world trade center.

“When I watched the planes hit the towers I just remember thinking, that’s my hometown.  Those are my people.  It was devastating,” says Kelly.

Governor Laura Kelly

Kelly concluded her speech saying the resilience of the country and its people should also commended as they have learned and grown since that day.

Up next was Colonel Kevin Lambert representing Fort Riley. Lambert says there are currently over 500 First Infantry Division soldiers deployed across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. 214 soldiers from Fort Riley died in conflict since 2001 and are remembered on the Global War on Terrorism Monument.   This monument sits in the Calvary Parade Field and has two granite towers rising from a pentagon base.

“Through the smoke, as the clouds cast among on our great nation by the unprovoked attacks on September 11, 2001, emerged a rapid and overwhelming response from our American military,” says Lambert.

Keynote Speaker Chuck Banks

The last speaker for the evening was the keynote speaker Former CIA Executive Chuck Banks.  He was one of the first in Afghanistan after the attack with a joint CIA and Special Forces joint team. His specialty with the CIA was covert action logistics and got his start in the military at Fort Riley. He shared his story of that day and what happened afterwards with the audience.

Banks had witnessed the second plane hitting on TV after hearing reports of the first plane.  He had first thought that it was a small civilian plane and not American Airlines Flight 11.

That weekend is when Banks and the CIA started to put their strategy together to bring to justice those who were responsible. That following Monday was when they got their orders from the president to be the first into Afghanistan.  He made trips through air drops of supplies such as weapons, ammunition, and food to their allies on the ground in Afghanistan.

While he was in Turkey, Banks had received word of a CIA operative, Mike Spann, who was killed in a prison riot, making him the first U.S. casualty. He was able to pay his respects to Spann as his body was being flown back to the U.S.

Banks says while his speech was not meant to be a happy one, he hopes that it is one of resolve.  He added that 9/11 is more than about a day, it has become generational tragedy and become sort of a way of life.

He ended his speech by thanking Junction City, Manhattan, and Fort Riley for taking him in 40 years ago when he started his military career.

The 1st Infantry Division band played one last time with the stadium lights shut off and attendees holding candles, while a short video played.  The night ended with the playing of Taps and the retreating of the colors.

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