South Mississippi military bases commemorate 20th 9/11 anniversary
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001, still affect people two decades later, including military members along the Mississippi Coast.
“Everybody is just trying to immortalize what happened 20 years ago and how it affected them,” the 403rd Wing’s NOIC of Training Brian Fonseca said.
The terrorist attacks had two airliners crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and passengers managed to crash the fourth plane in a field in Pennsylvania before it hit another target.
In total, 2,977 civilians, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and military personnel lost their lives in the attacks.
The milestone date made the Gulfport Seabee Base’s annual stair climb more special. Participants climbed up and down the base’s tallest building to honor the first responders who paid the ultimate price.
Some people wore weights to symbolize the oxygen tanks, jackets, gas masks, and other equipment the responders wore.
“That’s more for the firefighters, even the civilians that when in afterward that went in and climbed up to evacuate people out of the building. That’s so they can feel the gravity of that, whether they do it with a kit without a kit. It’s supposed to be grueling for them,” CFL Outreach Coordinator Thomas Littlefield said.
Just east of the climb over at Keesler Air Force Base, the 403rd Wing held a five-mile ruck march around the base with about 100 people honoring those who died and remembering the aftermath.
“To do an event like this is important because it really focuses on why we do what we do,” 403rd Wing Commander Col. Stuart Rubio said.
Organizers of both events said the commemorations are important for those who not only survived or remember the 9/11 attacks but also for those who don’t remember or weren’t even born yet.
“I think it’s important for those of us that remember 9/11 to share with the younger generation exactly how we felt, what we went through, all of those emotions,” 403rd Mission Support Group Commander Lt. Col. Reggie Trujillo said.
That includes the chaos during the attacks and the unity that followed.
“People wish we could get back to the way we felt on September 12th, 2001,” Trujillo said. “So I think that’s the hope going forward, is that we remember what unites us a nation and bring that together.”
Fonseca had similar feelings adding “United we stand as they say. We’re all trying to get through a tough time together and if we’re not sticking together, we are not going to make it through.”
It’s a feeling military members want more people to appreciate and pass on to future generations.
“We came together then and we certainly can do it now. Hopefully, we don’t need a big event like 9/11 to do that, we could just remember the feelings and come together as a united nation,” Rubio said.
The 81st Training Wing also held its own 9/11 commemoration with a 24-hour walk. Participants took turns walking on treadmills in honor of those who died during the attacks.
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