This morning, community members gathered at the Museum of Aviation to participate in a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony. Featured speakers included Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker, Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, Centerville Mayor John Harley, and Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth along with Col. Lyle Drew, 78th ABW Commander.

Robins Public Affairs provided the transcript of Col. Drew’s remarks below.

On this day 17 years ago, the world changed. The horrific events on that day in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania will forever be cemented in our hearts and minds. On Tuesday morning September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qauda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, deliberately crashing two of the planes into the upper floors of the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex and a third plane into the Pentagon. After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C. saving countless lives. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people from 93 nations: 2,753 people were killed in New York, 184 people were killed at the Pentagon, 40 people perished on Flight 93. Through this tragedy, our Nation rose up and came together to defend our way of life and to give hope to others suffering under repressive regimes that support terror. Even as we gather here today to remember those lost in the attacks, America’s military is deployed around the world securing our liberty at home and abroad. Today, the men and women who comprise our military are doing remarkable work around the globe. From our own skies to the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations around the world, our active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian “Airmen” continue to serve in defense of our Nation.

From the tragedy of that day came a renewed respect and appreciation for first responders, the men and women who put their lives on the line when the lives of others are in danger. More than 300 emergency-service workers perished in the attacks. In the years since 9/11, more disasters — man-made and natural — have reaffirmed the importance and bravery of these public servants. The terrorist attacks on 9/11, wounded our Nation in a way we had not known since the shock of Pearl Harbor. President George W. Bush said, “One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We will always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” We vowed we would never forget and we pause to remember their sacrifice again here today. Throughout our history, Americans have demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to go the distance, to do whatever it takes to preserve our interests. The determination of the American people is constant.

Seventeen years ago, on a day that began like so many others, a clear blue sky was pierced by billowing black smoke as a wave of grief crashed over us. But in one of our darkest moments, we summoned strength and courage, and out of horrible devastation emerged the best of our humanity. On this solemn anniversary, we pause in remembrance, in reflection and, once again, in unity. As we come together on Patriot Day to mourn their loss, we also recall how the worst terrorist attack in our history brought out the best of the American people. Courageous firefighters rushed into an inferno, brave rescue workers charged up stairs, and coworkers carried others to safety. Americans in distant cities and local towns united in common purpose, demonstrating the spirit of our Nation; people drove across the country to volunteer, donors lined up to give blood, and organizations collected food and clothing for people that did not even know. And, in our Nation’s hour of need, millions of young Americans, raised in a time of peace, volunteered to don the uniforms of our country’s military and defend our values around the world. In the face of great terror, Americans came together as one people united, not only in our grief but also in our determination to stand with one another and support the country we love. Today and all days, we remember the patriots who endure in the hearts of our Nation and their families who have known the awful depths of loss. In their spirit, let us resolve to move forward together and rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define these United States of America as we work to strengthen our communities and better our world. Then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said … “The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit.

Instead, we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” We must never forget.