YORKTOWN, Va. (NNS) -- At a ceremony Sept. 11 in Nelson Chapel, chief petty officer selectees from Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown and its tenant commands reflected on the sacrifice of more than 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Three passenger airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda forces and flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, due to the courage of the passengers that tried to retake the plane. This was the worst attack on American soil since the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
"It's been 14 years since the peace of an American morning was broken, yet it was on that awful day that we witnessed something uniquely American," Chief Gunner's Mate Jason Alderman said. "Ordinary citizens rising to the occasion and responding with extraordinary acts of courage."
The solemn ceremony began with the tolling of bells and the lighting of candles, each one signifying a moment that fateful morning when tragedy struck, beginning when the first plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center and ending when the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
"The sounding of two bells signifies the attack on United States soil on September 11, 2001, and in remembrance of those who lost their lives that tragic day," said Chief (Select) Master-at-Arms Derek Vasko.
"We sit here and listen to those bells toll, and it sends chills down your spine, and on this day, every single one of us knows exactly what we were doing that morning," said Command Master Chief (SW) Lee Friedlander, WPNSTA Yorktown command master chief.
Friedlander did something unique and unscripted when he asked people to stand if they lost someone in the attacks of 9/11, or if they knew someone who died, or even if they knew someone who suffered a loss in the attack. More than 2/3 of the chapel stood up, showing that the terrorist attack affected nearly everyone in one way or another.
"It's always amazing to me how we freeze hardship in our mind," he said. "We rarely recognize the good that comes out of something so bad. So many people stepped up to the challenge to join the military after 9/11."
"Every day, we come in in uniform, whether it be military or first responders, and we pray that the attacks of 9/11 will never happen again. We continue to do our jobs, but we stop on a day like today and we remember," he continued.
The ceremony ended with the passing of the flag, down the line of chief selectees, from one to the next, in honor of the memory of the more than 3,000 who died on 9/11, but especially to remember two of their fellow chief petty officers who died that day in the attack on the Pentagon.
"This flag is dedicated to the men, women and children who died on September 11, 2001," Friedlander said. "It will reside in the Chief Petty Officer's Mess as a reminder of those brave Americans."
Across the country, people paused to reflect and remember the tragedy of 9/11, but in that grief, there is hope. The hope for a better tomorrow and that we stand together as Americans to ensure an attack like that never happens again.
For more news from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, visit www.navy.mil/local/nwsyorktown/.