Cannon ceremony commemorates Sept. 11 attack

Cannon Connections staff photo: Gabriel Monte Airmen of the 27th Special Operations Wing salute as the flag in front of the headquarters building is taken down during a ceremony commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Sunday at Cannon Air Force Base.

Gabriel Monte

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that changed many lives. More than 3,000 people were killed by terrorist attacks by members of al-Qaida, who crashed planes into the twin towers of World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. And thousands more have died in the wars the events triggered.

For Staff Sgt. Stephen Mercer of the 27th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron, it was a day that cemented his resolve to join the military and become a firefighter.

“I try to take a step back every day and reflect,” said Mercer, who was 17 and attending high school in Denver, when the attacks occurred. “Things can be taken for granted and some thing can happen so quickly. People didn’t know this was going to happen and things changed lives forever.”

Mercer was part of a cohort of airmen who participated in a ceremony on base commemorating the attacks.

More than 200 people including airmen, their families and selected members of the community attended the event, which started at 6:46 a.m. MDT, the same time the first plane crashed into north tower of the World Trade Center. The ceremony began at the Headquarters building and moved to the fire department via a walking procession.

During the ceremony speakers reminded the audience of not just the losses but the heroism and sacrifice that occurred that day and continues today.

Cannon Air Force Base Commander Col. Albert Elton II also reminded the audience how the countries actions since the attacks have impacted the world namely in the Middle East.

Master Sgt. Elizabeth Staub of the 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron said the attacks not only enhanced her patriotism but reinforced her sense of duty.

“When I get called on to deploy I know that I’m going out there to do my part to help out my comrades to make the world a better place and rid them of the terrorists that are out there,” said Staub who was one of the speakers during the ceremony.

Staub said she was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming during the attacks.

“It was unbelievable that something like this would happen on American soil,” she said.

During the ceremony, Todd Miller, 27th Special Operation Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, and Lt. Col. Daniel Guinan, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander unveiled a piece of steel that was part of the wreckage of the twin towers.

Miller said he petitioned for the piece on behalf of the base two years ago. It is the only one in New Mexico, according to Cannon public affairs.

The piece will be displayed at the front door of the fire house, he said.

“The intent was just to have something tangible, having like a living tribute to the event,” Miller said. “Just having it and being able to put your hands on it and say this is what happened back then, nobody will ever forget. For firefighters it’s pretty emotional.”

More than 340 New York city firefighters died during the aftermath of the attacks searching through rubble of the twin towers.

Mercer said he felt privileged that the base was approved the piece.

“Knowing that I was alive and was experiencing the same emotions as everybody during that day and actually having a piece of that steel here in the fire department is going to be something I can feel a part of that even though I wasn’t in new York.”

In his speech during the ceremony, Elton reminded those at the event that the ideology that precipitated the 9/11 attacks still exist and the men and women who serve at the 27th Special Operations Wing will continue to fight on the front lines.

“The nation needs us to take the time to remember why we serve and why we fight.” he said.