Cadets from the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Dr. Phillips High School, students and local first responders gathered in front of the school’s doors during the annual 9/11 memorial tribute ceremony Monday, Sept. 11.
“This year is the 22nd anniversary of the attack in our homeland,” Lt. Col. Rick Proctor said.
The ceremony initiated with the sounds of the national anthem, performed by the Dr. Phillips High School wind ensemble, and the hoisting of the American flag.
The keynote speaker, Orange County Sheriff John Mina — who served his country as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army as a military police officer — addressed the audience during the ceremony.
“I just want to commend the Air Force Junior ROTC and the members who raised the flag — a job well done,” he said. “All of you are very young, but in your lifetime, you will have moments when you will know exactly where you were and exactly what you were doing. They will be few, hopefully, and those will be — rarely — good news, most certainly they will be a horrible and tragic event, catastrophic in nature. Ask anyone where they were Sept. 11, 2001, and they will know the exact location and exactly what they were doing.
“When I think about 9/11, when I think about our nation being attacked, I feel sad, I feel dejected,” Mina said. “But then something always happens, (and) I’m inspired.
“I think about the first responders — police officers and firefighters — who ran into the burning buildings to save lives,” Mina said. “I think about a nation that, despite its differences, came together as one. I think about a military who travels to the desert to hunt and destroy terrorists. … Seventy-two law-enforcement officers lost their lives that day. … (They ran) toward danger up the stairs to save thousands of lives and were killed as a result. They gave all. So, it is up to all of us to never forget.
“It is hard to believe it’s been 22 years,” Mina said. “Our hearts go out to the friends and families of the victims lost on 9/11. Our country mourns for them each year, but we can’t possibly know the pain the families feel — not only of this day but all the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays they passed each year without their loved ones.”
Mina concluded his speech by quoting former U.S. President George W. Bush: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”