By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CAIRO — It has been 21 years since a pair of airplanes struck the World Trade Center, and terrorist attacks in a field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon sent the nation into mourning.
More than two decades later, ceremonies and commemorations honored those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the sacrifices made by the first responders who rendered aid to the injured and fallen.
Greene County held its traditional 9/11 memorial service on the grounds of Greene County Emergency Services on Volunteer Drive in Cairo on Sept. 11.
“It’s hard to believe that 21 years have passed since that fateful day,” Greene County Legislator Matt Luvera said to open the program. “For many of us, it still seems like yesterday and the sense of loss is ever present.”
Luvera pointed out that many young adults today were not even born on the day the towers fell. He encouraged those who do remember to keep those memories alive by sharing them with younger generations.
“We are ushering in a new generation of adults who were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001,” Luvera said. “It is vital that we remember those who gave their lives that day, as well as those who give their lives every day in service to their communities.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, thanked first responders who sacrificed that day, as well as those in Greene County who continue to respond to emergencies and keep the community safe.
“I hope none of the first responders here with us today are made to endure anything like what occurred 21 years ago,” Tague said. “I thank you all for stepping up to serve the people of Greene County and for sacrificing so much, missing out on major life moments and milestones to answer the call to action.”
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are seared into the memory of the nation and must never be forgotten, he added.
“September 11 changed the world forever, it changed our country,” Tague said. “We can never forget what took place that day and the things that happened afterwards. It brought a country and its people closer together. We need a little more of that today.”
The ceremony’s guest speaker was Col. Kevin Hicks (Ret.), who served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1986-89, and in the U.S. Army from 1989-2015. He was in service 15 years when the 9/11 attacks shook the country.
“We saw when the second tower was hit. We knew our lives were changed and we were now going to war,” Hicks said. “There were many who saw the attacks and responded immediately. Many of my friends and comrades deployed.”
Hicks also spoke of the need for supporting those who have lived through trauma and tragedy, and encouraged those who need help to seek out the resources that are available.
“When I first joined the Army in the late ‘80s, it was very physically demanding and we stressed the physical things,” Hicks said. “Later, the chaplains started to get involved and started working on our spiritual fitness. It was only after 9/11 that we started conducting resilience training, trying to teach ourselves how to recover from tragedy and how to deal with it, and to make sure there were resources available to us.”
“Everybody deals with tragedy in some form,” Hicks added. “Please do not be afraid of seeking out help — talk to a friend, find the resources. Don’t be shy about seeking out those services.”
The names of law enforcement and firefighters who died in the line of duty in Greene County were read out loud at the conclusion of the service, with a bell tolling mournfully after each name.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to include a more accurate representation of Col. Hicks’ military service. We apologize for the error.