The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were devastating, shocking.
Even 14 years later, the shock hasn’t gone away. It “has remained engraved on our hearts,” said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.
But, “it’s what followed the attacks that really defines us — that’s the spirit of love we have for this nation. The spirit of, ‘We will not be defeated,’” Young said. “Each of you here this evening represents how that spirit is still alive today, right here and right now.”
Young spoke during a 6:30 p.m. ceremony at Kennewick’s 9/11 memorial at the Southridge Sports & Events Complex.
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The event capped off a day of remembrance at the site, starting with a sunrise ceremony and continuing with moments of silence at the times the four hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Honor guard members stood watch throughout the day.
The reverent, emotional evening ceremony drew hundreds — young and old, police officers, firefighters, military service members, dignitaries and civilians.
Young spoke of the country’s unity and resilience following the attacks, and of Kennewick’s effort to create a memorial — with steel from the World Trade Center — to commemorate the day and honor those who died. The memorial is a symbol of the nation’s and the community’s strength and pride, he told the crowd.
He and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, the keynote speaker, praised first responders and service members who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the country and its citizens — both on Sept. 11 and in the years since.
Owen made special mention of the three U.S. Forest Service firefighters who died earlier this summer near Twisp.
“Like the firefighters lost on 9/11, these men knew the risk and went to face the danger without hesitation,” Owen said.
He spoke about that Tuesday morning 14 years ago, of learning about the attacks, of watching the horror unfold throughout the day. There was little to be done in those early hours, he said.
“We could talk to each other, as we did. We could stay close by our televisions to watch the buildings burn and collapse from the fires, along with scenes that are still difficult to recall. When it was finally over, there was nothing but dust and rubble where two of the tallest buildings in the world had stood,” Owen said.
A lot has happened in the years since, he said — wars and conflicts, tightening of national security.
But the U.S. has proved resilient, he said. Growing. Rebuilding.
Owen referenced John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, when the young president spoke of paying any price, bearing any burden, meeting any hardship to “assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
“Fifty-four years later, those words still ring true,” Owen told the crowd, to applause. “Today, we are here as proof that freedom and democracy are the most powerful forces in the world.”
The ceremony also included opening and closing prayers, the playing of taps, a rifle salute and the national anthem performed by “National Anthem Girl” Janine Stange.
Eric and Elaine Beswick of Kennewick brought their 11- and 17-year-old daughters, saying they want the girls to understand the importance of the day.
“It’s too easy for days like this to become shopping days, days off of school, barbecue days, and to not really remember the people who gave their lives, who gave everything,” Elaine Beswick said. “If we don’t teach our children, they’re not going to know.”
Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @SaraTCHerald