Updated September 10, 2021 - 7:51 pm
The bell tolled three times, each one signifying honor and respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“For those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks are complete,” Nellis Air Force Base fire Chief Tony Rabonza said. “They are going home.”
The solemn Nellis Fire and Emergency Services 9/11 Memorial Ceremony held Friday morning marked the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on American soil.
As Rabonza talked to a crowd of about 100 airmen, including representatives of fire and police departments in North Las Vegas and Medic West, an American flag waved at half-staff.
Bagpipers played taps as Nellis officials laid a wreath with red, white and blue flowers onto the flagpole. Overhead, the North Las Vegas and Nellis fire trucks displayed another flag.
Seconds later, two F-15 and two F-16 fighter jets roared through the sky.
The ceremony honored the nearly 3,000 Americans who died in the attacks, including hundreds of firefighters, police officers, paramedics and medical technicians.
And the lingering effects of COVID-19 made Rabonza think of the continued ailments suffered by emergency workers who inhaled toxic dust, smoke and fumes at the site of the attack.
North Las Vegas Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Stover remembered going with a group from Las Vegas to New York to help out.
They toured ground zero but ultimately ended up attending funerals for the first responders who died, he said. In some cases, an entire fire station was lost.
“It was a surreal moment in time,” he said. “What I saw was a sense of patriotism and pride rise up in our country. We unified with a purpose to protect our country and to root out the evil that exists.”
Chief Master Sgt. Alex Morgan also highlighted the thousands of service members who have died or are suffering from their injuries.
“The global war on terror defined my career,” Morgan said.
He recalled being deployed to the Middle East a few days before the first plane struck the twin towers in New York City.
From then on, he served as an explosive ordnance disposal technician in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He recounted his experience working what was supposed to be a 48-hour operation that ended in a heavy mortar attack in which a gunner was killed.
Morgan and his unit worked for days to detonate explosive devices placed on the surrounding roads when they received word that another comrade was killed in action.
“Even as the years passed and our next generation steps forward, we will remember them,” he said. “Challenges will continue to test, but not deter, our resolve because we are and will remain the world’s greatest military.”