Patriot Day pledge now and forever: ‘Never Forget’

MILLSBORO – It has been 15 years since hijacked planes commandeered by terrorists brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and severed America’s military nerve cell – the Pentagon.

On that fateful day, Sept. 11, 2001, Americans struck back against terrorism.

United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thanks to the courageous actions of passengers who foiled the intended target of Al-Qaeda terrorists – believed to be the U.S. Capitol or The White House.

From death, destruction and rubble of 9/11 arose “Never Forget.”

That battle cray resonated at a 9/11 Patriot Day ceremony Sunday at American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

“Because of the brave passengers one plane did not complete its mission. What those terrorists set out to do was destroy the symbols of what this country is all about,” said Legion Post 28 Commander Austin Govin. “What these terrorists did not know is that one cannot destroy the symbols of America. What it did do was kill a lot of innocent people.”

Speakers urged those in the banquet hall and all across America to never forget and never let their children and grandchildren forget.

There were also calls for a unified America as was the case in the days, weeks and months in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

“We were Americans. We still have got that fire,” said state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, who has visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. “You can’t get that from a book. You have to be there to experience and to see the magnitude of what happened that day.”

“It is important and fitting that we pause today from the activities of our daily life to recall and reflect on that horrible event, not so long ago. History cannot be changed nor should it be forgotten,” said state Rep. Ruth Briggs king, R-Georgetown. “While some refuse to honor our flag, we know we would not be here without that flag and what it symbolizes not only in our country but in the world.”

U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., recalls taking the train from Wilmington to Washington on 9/11..

When the second plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Center, “we knew right then and there that the world had changed.”

“That day on Capitol Hill ended differently than any I have ever seen. No partisanship; no wrangling, looking for a political opportunity or favor. Bipartisan Democrats and Republicans on the steps together – a prayer vigil,” said Sen. Carper.

Tina Washington, president of Auxiliary Unit 28, experienced the attacks while in a classroom with future military leaders at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. She had been based at the Pentagon.

She spoke about the children born right after Sept. 11, 2001 who were “never to meet their parents, their grandparents …”

“Have we forgotten? No, it is just not staring us in the face as a constant reminder,” said Ms. Washington, who challenged everyone to put service into action simply through acts of kindness and compassion, particularly toward military veterans.

Last year, Sen. Carper attended the unveiling of the 9/11 memorial in rural southwestern Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down, far short of its target.

“If you ever feel down about America, if you ever feel questionable about America, go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” Sen. Carper said.

Among those recognized at Sunday’s ceremony: 87-year-old Hugh Thornton, a member of Legion Post 28’s Honor Guard who has been through hell twice.

During the Korean War while serving with the U.S. Army, he was a tortured prisoner of war.

Then as a building inspector for the City of New York on 9/11, Mr. Thornton was buried in Twin Towers rubble for several hours. He was located by a K-9, a big Dalmatian named Sam who subsequently became his loyal canine as a gift from the city.

“When the planes hit and I was down there across the street checking for the cracks in the building, I was buried. I was underneath a staircase. My collar bone was broken. My ankles were bashed up. My knee was bashed up. I had a lot of cuts and bruises but I was OK,” said Mr. Thornton, who moved with Sam from the Bronx to Sussex County about eight years ago. “My hand was up and this dog smelled my hand. He stayed with me. He howled like a wolf until they pulled me out. Sam rescued a lot of people that day. They gave him to me as a gift. He used to be here with me all of the time. I just had to have him put to sleep two years ago.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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