Alexandria, VA – The attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the world, and 18 years after their infamy was seared into our hearts the city of Alexandria held a remembrance ceremony in honor of the more than 3,000 lives lost.
“We gather here not to dwell on the hate that sparked a national tragedy, but the love that drove friends and strangers to unite in response and recovery,” Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said at the ceremony, which was held at Market Square outside City Hall. “We honor the strength and resilience of communities across America, and indeed around the world, who came together to demonstrate that no evil can break the human spirit.”
The remembrance ceremony was also attended by members of City Council, Police Chief Michael Brown, acting Fire Chief Corey Smedley, and officers from the Police and Fire Departments and Sheriff’s Office. It concluded with the “Return to Quarters” bell-ringing ceremony.
“Today is a beautiful day, just like it was on 9/11,” said City Councilwoman Amy Jackson. “You can’t erase history, but you can learn from it.”
Smedley recalled being in a fire station College Park station in Prince George’s County when he and his fellow firefighters watched the attacks unfold against the World Trade Center.
“At first we couldn’t tell what was happening, and then we watched a little longer and saw the second plane go in, and then we went on alert,” he said. “In that kind of a situation, you know that time is precious for anyone running into those buildings to help, and it’s important that you give them the training and resources they need to do the job.”
Brown was chief of the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles at the time of the attack, and watched the live news reports while sitting in Los Angeles International Airport waiting to get on a flight. Forty five minutes after watching the second crash he was firmly situated in the city’s emergency operations center.
“We spent the next 10 days chasing down many events and following alleged threats, and at the same time watching the fallout,” said Brown, who would later discover he knew four people who perished. “It is a small world. The thing that I think about is how we later came together as a people, and we were warmed by each other. The heroes of the day were about preserving others, and not caring about themselves. I remember saying a prayer that the first responders would survive, and they didn’t blink. They were running in.”