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Why we remember: 20th anniversary of 9/11

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

A firefighter uniform from the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron sits on display before the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The purpose of the ceremony was to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and remember those who lost their lives that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

A firefighter assigned to the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron holds the American flag during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The 910th CES and 910th Security Forces Squadron served as the flag detail in the ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Airmen assigned to the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron and 910th Security Forces Squadron raise the American flag during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The 910th CES and SFS served as the flag detail in the ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Airmen assigned to the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron and 910th Security Forces Squadron raise the American flag during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The 910th CES and SFS served as the flag detail in the ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

910th Airlift Wing key spouses and 910th AW leadership show respect to the American flag during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The purpose of the ceremony was to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and remember those who lost their lives that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, 910th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to Airmen and key spouses during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The purpose of the ceremony was to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and remember those who lost their lives that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Firefighters assigned to the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron drive a fire truck using the horn and siren during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The purpose of the ceremony was to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and remember those who lost their lives that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

Youngstown Air Reserve Station held a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The American flag flies at half-staff during the 910th Airlift Wing’s 20th Anniversary 9/11 ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The purpose of the ceremony was to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and remember those who lost their lives that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Juliet Louden)

YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio --

“Where were you on September 11th?”

For a long time, that was a question that united people in remembering that tragic day in United States history. Now that 20 years have passed, this question has lost relevance to young people. Many Airmen serving today were either too young to remember or not even born yet.

The 910th Airlift Wing held a 20th Anniversary 9/11 ceremony to reflect on the events of that day, to remember those who lost their lives and to help educate Airmen who have no memories of this event that changed the nation forever.

With a light breeze and the sun shining through the scattered clouds in the sky, 910th AW Commander Col. Jeff Van Dootingh walked to the podium overlooking the flag detail made up of base firefighters and security forces members selected to honor those in their profession who made the ultimate sacrifice on that day in September.

“Twenty years ago today, September 11th fell on a Tuesday, and the weather was eerily, perfectly identical to what we have today,” said Van Dootingh. “Twenty years ago today, most of the Airmen who joined our ranks were not even born yet. Twenty years ago today, the unbelievable, the unthinkable, became a reality. Twenty years ago today, America came together as she has only done a very few times in our entire history. And on that day, 20 years ago today, we saw both the absolute worst and the absolute best the human race has to offer. And thus, it is only right and fitting that we pause today to educate and to remember the events of that tragic day.”

Van Dootingh’s thoughts on an educational angle to the 9/11 ceremony were shared with many, including the event coordinator, Maj. Scott Allen, 910th AW chief of public affairs.

“Winston Churchill stated, ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’” said Allen. “The 9/11 Ceremony was a great example of that point, and we need to teach people what happened that day and why we can never forget.”

One of the Airmen on the flag detail for the ceremony falls into the category of those too young to remember Sept. 11, 2001.

“September 11th is a moment in time that we really need to understand and recognize the importance of that day since I was not around to experience the event firsthand,” said Senior Airman Josh Rohrbach, a fire team member for the 910th Security Forces Squadron. “When I was a kid, my whole class made paper cranes for a student whose uncle was a firefighter in New York City and died in the attack. That was my first personal connection to 9/11, and it made the tragedy feel closer to home. Learning about what the 9/11 responders did that day was a very humbling experience. They didn’t know what they were going into, they didn’t know some of them would never make it out and they didn’t know how their family and friends would be affected for years. They were simply doing their jobs, running into action and not thinking twice. I have an immense amount of respect for the first responders knowing they could be tasked to do something similar at any time.”

Another Airman who attended the ceremony was filled with emotion on hearing the last phone calls victims of 9/11 made to their loved ones.

“It was hard to hear the last phone calls made by people who knew they were dying,” said Airman First Class Lily Vild, a medical technician assigned to the 910th Medical Squadron. “Putting yourself in the shoes of those people, it is pretty terrifying.”

Vild also reflected on the importance of remembering those who died on that day and those who perished later on as a consequence of 9/11.

“A lot of people died and risked their lives that day,” said Vild. “It is super important to remember anyone whose lives have been lost. Many lives were lost because of that moment, not just then, but now as well. Being in the military makes you realize your place in that event. I consider the military my family, and my family risks their lives, and we must always remember it.”

Senior Airman Frank Zamlen, an aerospace propulsion specialist assigned to the 910th Maintenance Squadron, was just a baby wrapped in his mother’s arms while watching the terrorist attack happening live on television.

“The anniversary of September 11th reminds us that there is evil out there and to stay vigilant, because history can repeat itself,” said Zamlen.

Though there is much sadness surrounding the tragedy that occurred 20 years ago on September 11, Zamlen also sees it as a time of great unity in the United States.

“When I think of September 11th, I think of the day after, when we were more united than ever,” said Zamlen. “We all had something in common, a reason to come together.”

The 910th Airlift Wing is one of many organizations around the nation standing united in honor and remembrance of 9/11.