MARYVILLE, Mo. — More than 100 people, many of them firefighters, police officers, rescue workers and uniformed U.S. Army soldiers, gathered Wednesday for a ceremony to honor firefighters and other first responders killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and rural Pennsylvania.

Pastor J.D. Dirks with Calvary Chapel offered an invocation. The prayer was followed by a keynote address delivered by American Legionnaire Bob Bohlken, who gave a short history of the tragic events of 9/11.

“Never in the history of the world had the enemy of a nation used commandeered civil commercial airlines as self-destructive weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “The foreign attackers’ intent was not to occupy the territory, but to create fear, distrust, insecurity, vulnerability among us U.S. citizens.”

Altogether, 2,996 people perished on 9/11 after members of al-Qaida, an Islamic terrorist organization, turned four hijacked airliners into flying bombs flown by suicide pilots.

The attacks destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan and damaged the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense located just outside of Washington, D.C.

A fourth airliner initially was flown toward the nation’s capital but crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers thwarted the hijackers.

Wednesday’s ceremony paid tribute to the 343 fire fighters, 72 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel who lost their lives in the attacks and those who have died since an array of medical issues resulting from the event.

Eighth grade students from Maryville Middle School attended the event in honor of those who sacrificed their lives. The school was invited to send students and according to Maryville Middle School principal Kevin Pitts, it was decided to send the eighth grade.

“I think it’s so important to continue to do our best as educators to keep this in the forefront of our history,” said Pitts. “We decided to start with just the eighth grade. It fits in with their curriculum. They learn American History in eighth grade. We thought that was a good fit.”

Not yet born when the 2001 event occurred, the eighth grade students were quiet and solemn during the proceedings, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, listening to the history and honoring those who have fallen.

“We’re very honored to be here and we hope the students get as much out of it as they possibly can,” said Pitts. “These kids weren’t born (in 2001), and we were. My words to them was that this may be much more emotional for adults than it is for you guys, because we remember it.”

To end the ceremony, Maryville firefighter Jace Pine rang a ceremonial bell to honor the first responders who have died in the line of duty. The bell, according to Rickabaugh, is steeped in tradition.

It can be traced as far back as 1865, in New York City being rung to signify the death of former president Abraham Lincoln. In that time before computers and radios, fire bells were rung in four sets consisting of five chimes each whenever a firefighter died in the line of duty.

After Pine rang the bell, the ceremony ended with Bob Burnett’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, another tradition used to signify a fallen firefighter.

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