CLEARFIELD – A memorial ceremony honored service men and women and remembered the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America 18 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.
The county’s memorial flag was raised, a bell was rung and a memorial wreath of red, white and blue carnations was presented before the Sept. 11 memorial stone.
Eighteen 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 in New York City.
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 at 10:03 a.m., passengers and crew rebelled against hijackers in an effort to take back Flight 93.
That plane was crashed into a field in Shanksville, a town most had never heard of outside of Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
At 10:28 a.m., the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
The memorial ceremony guest speaker was U.S. Army Veteran William Mays of Olanta, who is presently assigned with the 327th Quartermaster Battalion of Williamsport.
“This day, 18 years ago, changed every American’s life – forever,” Mays said. “… These were not random acts. These were full-fledged attacks on the United States of America’s soil.”
On Oct. 7, 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, he said Operation Enduring Freedom commenced with the bombing of Afghanistan.
In a matter of weeks, he said U.S.-led forces, along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Northern Alliance, had overthrown the al-Qaeda and Taliban government.
And on May 2, 2011, he said he was deployed in Afghanistan when Osama bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda leader, was captured and killed in Pakistan.
Mays said the military phrase “embrace the suck” has stuck with him. It means to “consciously accept or appreciate something that’s extremely unpleasant but unavoidable for forward progression.”
“Soldiers’ lives have changed. We were a country at war,” he said … “I don’t believe the U.S. Army was designed to be a nation builder, but that’s what we are right now.
“Some soldiers have paid the ultimate price for freedom. They’ll never come back; they’ll never hold their children.” Others, he said, have physical injuries, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues.
Mays said soldiers have families and they have also suffered, because they leave on short notice for a tour of duty without knowing what their final outcome will be.
A prime example, Mays said was in February of 2003, when he was an Army staff sergeant and instructor and his son was a National Guard specialist, and they both left their home together in Olanta.
“We left not knowing if we’ll ever come back,” he said, “but thank God that we did … We’re are the home of the free because of the brave.”
Mays, who served for 38 years in the U.S. Army, has received the Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Commendation Medals and the Army Achievement Medal.
Other awards include the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals, National Defense Service Medal and Armed Forces Reserve Medal, plus numerous others.
Mays is also a member of the Curwensville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 842 and Clearfield American Legion Post 6. He resides in Olanta with his wife, Joyce.