Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ali Flockerzi.
A somber mood was set this morning as Coast Guard men and women gathered at Coast Guard Sector New York, in Staten Island, New York, to remember nearly 3,000 innocent lives lost 13 years ago.
To remember the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, a flag ceremony was performed. An unwavering American symbol, the vibrant red, white and blue colors stood out against the cloudy, gray sky as the flag detail team hoisted it up the pole. Capt. Gordon Loebl, commander, Coast Guard Sector New York, gave remarks on the significant role the Coast Guard plays on a daily basis to thwart terrorist activity and the positive impact of their response on that day.
“When I think back on the events of that day, it gets me choked up,” said Loebl. “That inspires me to do a better job. It’s very important that we’re the best at what we do.”
Following the flag ceremony, service members gathered in the base chapel to watch “BOATLIFT- An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.” This short, narrative piece illustrated the enormous emergency response in the largest maritime evacuation in history. Following the attacks, five Coast Guard cutters, 12 small boats, and more than 100 public and private vessels maneuvered around the waters off Manhattan to rescue people off the sea walls, parks and piers.
Many people can easily recall where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day. Chief Warrant Officer Herbert Fowlkes was serving as a Coast Guard boatswain’s mate second class in New York when the planes hit the towers.
“We saw it hit the second tower,” said Fowlkes. “It was heartbreaking because you see people who are helpless and can’t do anything to help themselves. I just had to keep it together and do my job.”
Glen Carrano was an agent for the Coast Guard Investigative Service and watched from a building in Battery Park as the second hijacked plane flew directly over his head and hit the other tower. Michael Di Trani was a member of the NYPD and a Coast Guard reservist when he selflessly responded to the incident.
While no two stories are ever the same, each person who experienced the tragedies that day can agree on one thing; it is a difficult thing to talk about.
“The horror was abstract. There was nothing you could do,” said Di Trani. “The ground was much like a tsunami coming at us; a rolling tidal wave of smoke and cement. It turned that day to night. That crystalline blue sky was gone.”
While the sorrowful memories live vividly in the minds of those present on that cataclysmic day, it is a reminder of those who died so others could live. It is a day to think of the men and women who protected and served thousands of people.
If one thing is certain, it is this; we will never forget.