USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS, At Sea (NNS) -- On Sept. 11, 2001, people around the world watched in shock and horror as the television showed people jumping and falling from the World Trade Center buildings as plumes of smoke rose and debris smothered downtown New York City.
People also watched as smoke bellowed from the west side of the Pentagon and watched as news channels reported another plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 attempted to regain control.
More than a decade after the fateful events of 9/11, Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) participated in a memorial ceremony and steel-beach picnic, Sept. 11, 2012, to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks.
"The purpose was to remember that nearly 4,000 people died in one day and that lives can change within moments," said Command Master Chief William Cramer, of USS James E. Williams, who hosted the ceremony.
The ceremony was held at 9:59 a.m. local time, corresponding to the time when the South Tower of the World Trade Center began to collapse. The mood was solemn and quiet as Damage Controlman 2nd Class Candice Mitchell began the ceremony by singing the National Anthem.
"Shipmates, we are gathered here this morning to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001," said Cmdr. Christopher Senenko, commanding officer of James E. Williams and a native New Yorker who was the guest speaker during the ceremony. "On that beautiful Tuesday morning eleven years ago, the nation went about it's business not realizing that our enemies had finally fulfilled their goal of successfully launching an attack against us in our own backyard."
"As the years have passed and the events of that day recede into the memories of the national psyche, we gather here so that we will never forget," said Senenko.
"I ask you to never forget. To never forget those lost that day, to never forget those that lost their lives in military actions in response to 9/11, to never forget that there are those who mean to destroy us," said Senenko, "and to never forget our responsibility as servicemembers to safeguard our country and our way of life."
Senenko's speech was followed by a reading of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, beginning with the departure of American Airlines Flight 11 and concluding with the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Somerset County, Penn.
After the ceremony, Sailors asked each where they were on 9/11.
"Our instructor had come into our classroom and said an airplane had struck one of the Twin Towers," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Charles Lovelace, who had been attending job training at Naval Training Command during the attacks. "The instructor came back and said another plane had struck the second tower and it was most likely a terrorist attack."
"Shock," was the first thing Lovelace said he remembers feeling, "and I was worried for the people involved."
For Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Samantha Black, who was in 6th grade, the experience was frightening. "An administrator came into class, whispered something to our teacher, and then we were taken to a bomb shelter until our parents were able to pick us up."
"I remember watching the television in shock," said Black. "I was a little kid, and I was terrified."
Some crew also shared the same sentiment towards their military service.
"I felt more motivated to defend my family and friends back home," said Lovelace.
"Seeing those events solidified my decision to join the military," said Black.
James E. Williams is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and supporting missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.