Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford is as patriotic as anyone in Churchill County. Son of a World War II veteran, Tedford knows the importance of living in a country where freedom comes at a price.
Sept. 11, 2001, was one such day that changed the world, the United States, millions of people and thousands of communities located between one coast to the other.
Monday or Patriot Day remembers the sacrifices made by first-responders, the military, airline passengers aboard four jets and thousands of people who worked in the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people perished on that day in the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil — when two jets hijacked by terrorists crashed into New York City’s World Trade Center, another flew into the Pentagon and a fourth dove in a western Pennsylvania field after passengers overwhelmed hijackers in an unsuccessful attempt to wrestle control of Flight 93.
Fallon’s annual ceremony on Monday begins at 3:30 p.m. behind City Hall. Tedford said it’s important to keep the flame burning for those who vividly remember the events of Sept. 11 and for new generations who were not born.
“History is something we forget,” Tedford said. “The young ones in life were not even around on 9/11 or were so young they don’t remember. It’s important for us to relay to them that happened just as those older … from the Greatest Generation …. relayed to us what happened at Pearl Harbor.”
Tedford said history passes down events from one generation to another and informs us why certain events occurred.
“We need to pass this history down,” Tedford said, wondering if history books still tell of Pearl Harbor and how the surprise Japanese bombing led the United States into war.
After 9/11, Tedford had an idea to create a monument behind City Hall to remember the memory of the attacks and of the people, first-responders and military who died.
“We wanted to create a monument people could come to — even if we didn’t have a program — so they could understand and see,” Tedford said. “As long as I am mayor here, we’ll have a 9/11 memorial, not to just honor and remember but also to pray for those (who died).”
During the Fallon ceremony, Tedford reads a timeline of how the events of Sept. 11 unfolded during the day beginning from when the first jet slammed into the World Trade Center. He said reading the timeline becomes very emotional for him because many people already know the outcome.
“It’s long, but a great reminder for the young people,” Tedford added.
A monument constructed near Fallon’s red-brick 9/11 memorial, which has a beam from the World Trade Center, honors local men and women who died in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Spec. Jason Disney, who grew up in Fallon and attended schools here, died at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, in February 2002.
Tedford said the ceremony and memorials offer residents to attend the local event and to reflect on Sept. 11, especially for children learning more about 9/11. Gov. Brian Sandoval, concurs, saying an entire generation wasn’t born when 9/11 happened.
“We need to remind them of what happened with that horrible attack on the United States,” he said. “Thousands of people lost their lives, and the country got into a war to protect our freedom. 9/11 is a day we remember where we were when it happened.”
Sandoval loves to read history, and for that reason, the second-term governor said he enjoys attending Fallon’s 9/11 ceremony because of the historical references. The governor has considered it a tradition for him to attend Fallon’s ceremony. He said he appreciates those who attend any ceremony, though, to remember history as he did when he visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the site of the World Trade Center.
“Very humbling,” Sandoval said of the exhibits. “It’s one of the best museums I’ve seen, … and I encourage people to see the museum if they visit New York City.”
Sandoval said he also was moved by the two reflective pools, each located where the two towers once stood. For those who died, the museum offers a subtle reminder of the people who perished when the towers collapsed. Every morning at the pools, museum employees place a single white rose on the name of each victim who has a birthday to keep history fresh in each visitor’s mind.
“It’s one of the most meaningful things we do in visitor services, because it’s a physical reminder to all our visitors that the names etched in bronze represent real people — each with stories and lives that were cut short,’ wrote Sean Evans, Visitor Services supervisor, in an email. “A lot of times, I can instantly see the moment when a visitor looks at a rose on someone’s name and realizes — ‘OK, this is real.’ Even though it might make them sad, it helps connect them on a personal level with what happened.”
Rear Adm. Gregory Harris, commander of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center at Naval Air Station Fallon, visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum 18 months ago with his family. The images left a vivid impression with Harris.
One display that captured Harris’ attention showed people jumping from one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
“I was watching the montage, trying to get a sense of what they were thinking and going through,” he said of the people who worked there and were trying to escape the inferno.
“We visited the museum with one of the firemen with an engine company and also visited his firehouse,” Harris recalled. “It (the montage) was incredibly well done. I was listening to people around me, and they were very somber, very respectful.”
Harris, like many military men and women who were serving 16 years ago, remembers 9/11. At the time, Harris was assigned to NAS Lemoore, Calif., and was watching the event unfold on television. On his way to the main gate to report to his unit, Strike Fighter Squadron 115 (VFA-115) which is now stationed in Japan, traffic was backed up.
Over the subsequent weeks and months and later years, VFA-115 built a strong relationship with New York City’s Ladder 54, Engine 9, Battalion 9. Many firefighters from the battalion lost their lives on Sept. 11. Harris also served at the Pentagon three years before the third jet rammed into the building; he eventually saw the damage the crash caused.
“We always seem to rise above disaster and show our best when we need to,” he said.
Harris’ son as a young boy told himself he needed to serve his country after he watched the horrifying events. Sixteen years later, Harris’ son is now a senior at the United States Naval Academy, less than a year away from receiving his diploma and commission in the Navy.
The Pennsylvania native said remembering 9/11 and Pearl Harbor are important, but people tend to remember more about the terror attacks in New York City and the Pentagon than they do with the Japanese attack in 1941.
Brig. Gen. William R. (Bill) Burks, the adjutant general for Nevada, said Americans must never let their guard down because another attack could invariably strike again. Although Harris worked at the Pentagon three years before the attacks, Burks was there on the day 9/11 happened.
“I have a lasting impression of that day,” he said. “I was watching the events unfold in New York City, and then I felt the explosion. The building shook, and people ran out of the building. A lot of people had never been through anything like this.”
Burks, who worked in the plans section, and others hurried out of the building, afraid of another crash or explosion. The crash, however, could have been worse. Burks said the area hit by the passenger jet was mostly unoccupied as employees were still in the process of moving their office items back to remodeled offices.
The smell of burning oil and fuel, though triggered Burks’ memories back to the Gulf War in 1991 when firefighters tried to control the oil fires in Kuwait.
Burks, though, said the events of 9/11 should not be forgotten because the number of individuals born shortly before and after the terrorism have no recollection except for what they have read or seen on television. Likewise, he illustrated how many Americans still recognize Pearl Harbor Day or the Normandy landing in June 1944 when thousands of Allied troops stormed the beaches and drove into France to stop the Nazis.
The adjutant general, though, said the day is special.
“It’s a silent reminder of what happened,” Burks added.