9/11: Feds remember

Federal employees and organizations representing them joined this this month to honor those who died in the 9/11 attacks, 20 years ago.


Federal employees and organizations representing them joined this this month to honor those who died in the 9/11 attacks, 20 years ago.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the nation and the world awoke to the shock and horror of the United States under attack. Rescue efforts turned to recovery missions at Ground Zero in New York, the crash site in Shanksville, Pa. and a battered Pentagon in Virginia, soon revealing that nearly 3,000 died that day, including many federal employees.

Beyond the day’s horrendous death toll, tens of thousands more were physically and psychologically injured in the attacks—and many more suffered and died in the years that followed, from diseases arising from dust and smoke, suicides energized by trauma, and still more as military casualties in the wars unleashed by 9/11.

In observance of 9/11, federal employee and military leaders remembered the loss and the heroic emergency efforts of feds—especially first responders—and their counterparts at state, local and nongovernmental organizations.

“Federal employees were among the many public servants who responded to the attacks 20 years ago. From federal offices to our airports, you went to work because your fellow Americans needed you,” National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Tony Reardon said. “NTEU members were among those brave and steadfast individuals who spent weeks and months at disaster sites stepping up to help our country heal.”

“The knowledge that you have been there for America, are there for our country now and will continue to be there provides daily reassurance for our nation’s citizens,” he continued.

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, also shared words honoring those who served, and the fallen. AFSCME also represents feds at the Library of Commerce, U.S. Patent Office and other agencies.

“Twenty years after 9/11, we remember the brave AFSCME front-line heroes who served that day,” the union said in a post on its website. “AFSCME EMS professionals, health professionals, public safety workers and countless others did what AFSCME members do every day—they put their communities first despite danger to themselves.

Military advocacy orgs also spoke of the sadness and pride that has embodied many thoughtful recognitions of the horrific day and the national experience that followed.

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we remember Marines … who were willing to go to the hard places at the hard times on behalf of our country,” David H. Berger, the Commandant of the U.S. Marines said to those in current and past service. “In Afghanistan, like so many other theaters, [Marines] served honorably and courageously, doing all that was asked of you and more. From Camp Rhino in 2001, to Kabul in 2021, Marines made a difference.”

“In the hours and days after the attacks of 9/11, an extraordinary number of Americans raised their right hands and took an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Berger continued. “On this anniversary, whether you have served for 20 years or 20 days, we encourage you to join your fellow Americans in quiet remembrance.”

“We saw incredible courage amidst the carnage in New York, at the Pentagon and in the skies over Shanksville, and we resolved that those taken from us would not have been lost in vain,” retired U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, of the Association of the U.S. Army, said. “In the intervening 20 years, the bravery and selflessness of first responders at home were matched on the battlefields by a generation of women and men who answered our nation’s call to duty.”

“Today, women and men serve in uniform who have no personal recollection of Sept. 11, 2001. Some weren’t yet born,” Ham went on to say. “Yet, still they have chosen to serve.”

“I guess that’s why, on this 20th anniversary of such a terrible day, I still hold on to all that I treasure about America,” Ham said. “Young people still, every day, step forward, raise their right hands to serve us, to defend us from those who wish us harm. That, at least to me, is the enduring legacy of 9/11—service to the nation, rising above one’s personal concerns, even personal safety and well-being, to answer the call to duty.”

Across the country, a multitude of commemorations were held. Among these noteworthy gatherings, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration joined with the group Carry The Load, the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and others, at national cemeteries across the country. Their purpose? To bear witness to the fallen, share and honor their stories and to plant flags and clean headstones—among other mindful activities.

“There is no way to bring back those we lost that day, or those who died in the post 9/11-wars—no more than we can undo what happened that morning,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said at one such event, at Quantico National Cemetery. “All we can do is honor them. Remember them.”

“What I could not know and did not realize,” PPS President and CEO of PPS, also at Quantico, said, “until a fair bit afterward, is that I was alive because of 33 people and a bunch of people who were working on an airplane that was flying over Pennsylvania did something to bring that airplane down and to save a lot of lives, including my own.”

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