HELENA — The Montana State Capitol Rotunda echoed with the solemn sound of bell-ringing Saturday morning as the Montana Highway Patrol Honor Guard paid respect to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Montana first responders, veterans, members of the Montana Department of Justice and elected leaders came together for the event which was hosted by the Monana Department of Justice. Key speakers included Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Helena Fire Assistant Chief Jon Campbell.
“It’s an opportunity to remember and look back on the ultimate sacrifice by fire service, EMS, police and look at the context that’s meant over the past 20 years,” said Campbell.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day when hijackers took control of four commercial airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Campbell was in Alaska for paramedics school when the Twin Towers fell. He recalls his sister, who was a health care worker on the East Coast, calling him early in the morning.
“It was about 5 a.m. Alaska time and she said get up, you need to turn on the T. and see what’s going on,” recalled Campbell. “The shock, anger and sadness from Ground Zero spread not just across the United States, but around the world.”
Campbell said the anniversary is a good time to reflect on where we were, how far we’ve come and look to the future. He noted a common thread between firefighters, police, EMTs and the military is a desire to help and better their communities, even if it means giving the ultimate sacrifice.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen recounted the event of the day. The loss, terror and heroic actions.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the world saw valor from the more than 400 firefighters, paramedics and police officers that died that day trying to help others. Minutes after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, first responders were en route to provide what aid they could.
There had never been an incident like this before. Those individuals rushed into the unknown in a desperate attempt to evacuate the area, not knowing the dangers they faced.
Knudsen said it’s important that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are never forgotten, and encourages those that remember to share the importance with the younger generations.
“It’s generational right, I’m sure the veterans of World War II said the same thing about the generation that was born after Pearl Harbor,” explained Knudsen. “We have to remember this was the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. And we have to keep reminding the next generation of that. Remind them of how we felt, remind them of why it happened, who did it to us. These are all important things for history moving forward because if we don’t know where we’ve been we don’t know where we’re going.”
Twenty years later, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, remain a day of grief, but also one of courage. We remember the innocent lives lost, and the bravery of first responders whose heroism and sacrifice continues to inspire.