U.S. bases in Europe pause to mark 9/11 anniversary
NAPLES, Italy — U.S. military bases around Europe marked the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Friday with various activities to honor the thousands who perished that day.
At Souda Bay, Crete, Chief Petty Officer Christopher Howk, laid a wreath during the base’s ceremony.
Howk, 36, was at the Pentagon, near where the plane hit, killing dozens of his co-workers. Of the 189 people who died in the crash, 125 of them were workers at the building.
“It was so fast. My first memory was getting off the floor,” said Howk, who is the administration officer on the Military Sealift Command’s USNS Second Lt. John P. Bobo.
Howk said a lieutenant he worked with at the time mentioned that the Pentagon could be a target as they watched news coverage of the attacks in New York.
Then, there was an explosion.
Howk described a scene of falling ceiling tiles, military helicopters flying in and out of the area and seeing a ball of smoke hurtle down the hall as he left. Once he was out, he and other servicemembers made their way to a nearby gas station to get bottled water and other supplies for firefighters battling the blaze.
“It was tons of smoke,” said Howk, of Hudson Falls, N.Y.
In Naples, a memorial service was held at 7:40 a.m. as sailors gathered in Capodichino’s main courtyard.
A special Sept. 11 flag was raised, decorated with silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a star to honor the people who overpowered the hijackers on the fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, causing it to crash near Shanksville, Pa.
NSA Naples Fire Chief Roland Hesmondhalgh, who was starting his work day at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, when the first plane hit the towers, was the keynote speaker.
“If we are to truly honor those who died that day, we need only remember the undying love that sent rescuers into the burning towers, the unselfish love that sent the passengers of Flight 93 to fight armed hijackers,” the chief said.
“This, more than anything, is the lesson from that day of sadness — that within each of us is our humanity and a sense of duty toward our fellow man.”
In Grafenwöhr, Germany, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Tower Post 10692 held a memorial service in front of the flag pole at the Joint Multinational Training Center.
Taps was played at RAF Mildenhall, England, followed by a moment of silence. And a ceremony was held at the distinguished visitor’s ramp at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The Navy base in Sigonella, Sicily, had a ceremony and its sixth annual MIA/POW 9/11 Memorial Formation Run.
For Howk, these observances have a deeply personal meaning.
“It was definitely a day I will never forget,” he said. “The important thing to me is there is not a day goes by that I don’t think about one of the folks who were killed that day.”
Despite the horrific events, Howk was back at work in another office building the next day, he said.
“The whole purpose of this attack was to disrupt our daily life and quite frankly, I was like, ‘I’m not going to let the bastards do it,’ ” Howk said.