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We will not falter, we will not fail ... Reserve Citizen Airmen reflect on Sept. 11, 2001

Tech. Sgt. Felipe Henao, 445th Force Support Squadron base honor guard program manager, lays a wreath at the base of a section of the Pentagon that was salvaged from the rubble of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, during a 9/11 ceremony here Sept. 11, 2021.

Tech. Sgt. Felipe Henao, 445th Force Support Squadron base honor guard program manager, lays a wreath at the base of a section of the Pentagon that was salvaged from the rubble of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, during a 9/11 ceremony here Sept. 11, 2021.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Members of the 445th Airlift Wing honored the victims of Sept. 11, 2001 during a 20th Anniversary ceremony, Sept. 11, 2021 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The ceremony began with the singing of God Bless America and ended with the honor guard playing taps.

Col. Raymond Smith, 445th AW commander, reflected on the events that occurred that day and praised Airmen for their continuous service to the Nation.

“Every September 11, I normally end my day thinking of the military members who serve to protect our way of life, and for the past few years I’ve been thinking of you, members of the 445th and how you honor the victims, families, first responders and military personnel with your actions,” Smith said.

In addition to Colonel Smith, Staff Sgt. Adam Sigrist, from the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron reflected on that day, 20 years ago, when he was only 12 years old sitting in his second period religion class.

‘America is under attack,’ are the words Sigrist heard his religion teacher say.

He went on to describe events that occurred the following day.

“I remember September 12th vividly. I had never seen so many American flags on front porches going into school. My feelings of vulnerability were comforted, as the United States took immediate, powerful military action. Without hesitation, men and women traveled across the world to fight back on my behalf. I felt safe again, protected. These people were my heroes. Having never heard the word resiliency before, I learned its meaning in the days immediately following September 11th,” Sigrist added.

Another Airman, Master Sgt. Jason Thomas, provided firsthand knowledge of the tragic events he witnessed, via Zoom. Thomas a native of New York, and a former U.S. Marine recounted how his day began with him dropping off his daughter off at his mother’s house, hearing about a plane hitting the tower and then heading to ground zero to provide support.

Thomas ran to his car, pulled out his uniform, threw it on, and drove as quickly as he possibly could into the city.

“As I look at the World Trade Center, I see pieces falling away from the building. I’m about 1/4 mile from the building, and I can now see people taking their lives by jumping out of windows. Seeing that was devastating. I said to myself, ‘I want to get there and help evacuate.’ I knew our first responders would need help,” he recalled.

As he drove closer, he saw the tower collapse in front of him. Thomas emotionally described the horrible scene right before his eyes.

“I can hear the screaming and crying, the twisting of the metal and the debris falling. I could hear the collapsing of each floor one on top of one another.”

He soon realized that it was not going to be an evacuation but a rescue. “I see this ash coming directly toward me roaring like a freight train.” He kneeled by his vehicle as the ash covered him. He used his t-shirt to protect his nose and mouth from the ash. Then he ran to the pile of rubble to assist where needed.

Thomas and another Marine, with the aid of others, were able to rescue a port authority police officer that day. He spent the next 20 days helping at ground zero.

“As I reflect back on this day 20 years ago, I think of how men and women, our country, stepped up and stood as one. Our country is better and safer when standing together,” Thomas concluded.