Eighteen years ago, the world changed forever. On that fateful Tuesday, when skies were bright blue and sunny for most of the east coast, nearly 3000 Americans went off to work or to catch a flight as if nothing was out of the ordinary. They kissed their loved ones goodbye, or waved a rushed farewell, grabbed their things, and off they went. Those 3000 Americans never made it home again. Today, we unite as a nation and pause to remember, honor the fallen, and show gratitude for the heroes from that horrible day.
For many of us, it will be a day we will never forget. We all have our own story of where we were when those towers fell. But of course, life does carry on and there is a new generation coming to age now who weren’t alive yet. But it is our duty to never forget those we as a nation lost that day. All across the country there will be memorial services, observances, and moments of silence to mark this anniversary. At the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 10, the Midshipman Action Group lead a brigade in placing one American flag for every victim of those terrorist attacks eighteen years ago. The flags flank Stribling Walk, a ceremonial walkway of bricks that connects several prominent buildings of the Academy Yard.
Most of the Midshipmen who placed flags this year were not old enough to remember the events of 9/11. Despite that, for at least one, this act was more than one of duty. It was personal. As WJLA reports, when Andrew Panik placed his flag in the soil along that bricked walkway, he did so in honor of his uncle, Lieutenant Martin Panik, who died that day at the Pentagon. “Three days later they identified his body because he had both of his hips replaced and they didn’t burn," Panik told WJLA. Like many, the events on September 11, 2001, inspired Panik to serve, despite not having been old enough to recall it firsthand. He joined the Navy to honor his uncle. "It's a huge dream of mine to fill those shoes and make him proud as best as I could."
The flags will remain along Stribling Walk all day today. Wherever you were that day, wherever you are today, we hope you join us in a moment of pause and reflection to remember those lost in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in that Pennsylvania field, and to give thanks for the survivors and those who ran towards danger.