CLEARFIELD – A memorial ceremony honored service men and women and remembered the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America 16 years ago today.
It was attended by local police officers, firefighters, first responders, local officials and a handful of community members at the Clearfield County Courthouse plaza.
A bell was rung four times, the county’s memorial flag was raised and a memorial wreath of red, white and blue carnations was presented before the Sept. 11 memorial stone.
Sixteen years ago at 8:46 a.m., hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
At 9:03 a.m., hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. At 9:37 a.m., hijackers crashed Flight 77 into the western side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, and minutes later, passengers and crew rebelled against hijackers in an effort to take back Flight 93. That plane was crashed into a field in Somerset County
At 10:28 a.m., the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
Across America, millions of people were glued to their televisions, as they watched the terror unfold, said Sgt. Nathan Curry of the Clearfield Borough Police Department.
Out of all the terror that day, he said heroism arose in the selfless acts of police officers, firefighters and first responders alongside the ordinary people.
The ceremony’s guest speaker was Bill Hess, a retired first sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was assigned to recruiting duty and set up for a career fair.
When he heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, he packed up and left. Immediately upon return to his office, he was on the phone with his boss.
Hess wanted to leave recruiting duty and assigned to an infantry unit. “Being in the USMC, I prepared for war every day,” he said.
“… Anger, outrage and disbelief were just some of my feelings, and I was ready to go.”
After being told it wouldn’t happen, Hess checked his messages in case he had any from concerned USMC enlistees or their families.
He had one message from an enlistee who had been “shaky” about the possibility of going to war, but now he was ready.
“No one was concerned; they all knew,” Hess said. In the months to follow, he had numerous USMC veterans who wanted to return to active duty. “It grew exponentially after Sept. 11.”
Additionally, he said there were many young men and women who had once thought about the military but who had chosen another path now feeling compelled to serve their country.
“They enlisted knowing and expecting to defend our great nation,” Hess said. “… All of those who joined since 2001 joined during a time of war.
“I think it speaks to the character of the young men and women in our country today … our enemy will never stop, and we need to be strong.”
He said the United States has a wealth of “strong and resilient people” in and out of the military, including those who showed the ultimate courage on Sept. 11.
“They ran directly into the fray and suffered the most devastating loss. We must never forget that what we have is worth protecting and the cause is and will always be great.”