PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia --
“No one old enough to be aware of the events that day will ever forget, but we need to make sure the generations to follow remember as well.”
The words of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Norvel, a Washington D.C. Air National Guardsman who was on duty at the time of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, reverberated over the speakers during a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, twenty years later.
Members of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing and several joint partners at PSAB gathered for an event Sept. 11, 2021, to remember the attacks and honor the heroes who gave their lives to save others. The ceremony started promptly at 8:46 local time, to mark the minute the first aircraft hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, New York.
During the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Davis, 378th AEW commander, Norvell and U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Hook, District of Columbia Guardsmen who responded to the attacks, addressed the audience.
“As we have our day of remembrance, we must never forget,” said Hook. “We must never forget the evil, and we must never forget the sadness and grief caused by the attacks. But most of all, I hope we never forget that this attack did not break us, it only made us stronger.”
Both Novell and Hook, members of the D.C. National Guard’s 113th Wing who are currently deployed to PSAB with a contingent of F-16 Fighting Falcons, shared their experiences of that day and how their unit immediately launched fighter aircraft in response to the attack.
“It was as if a switch had been flipped,” Hook said. “It was something that I will never forget, to see that the things you get trained on and things happen that you know will trigger a certain reaction -- that’s what happened that day. And the activity was a flurry on the line. In short order we launched two jets.”
The ceremony also included the posting of colors by deployed firefighters and defenders in the PSAB Honor Guard and the reading of the Firefighters and Security Forces prayers. Davis rallied personnel with a call to action prior to the final ceremonial folding of the U.S. flag.
“Let us remember those first responders and other patriots who laid down their lives for us and even the next generation that is not born yet,” said Davis. “Let us commit to ensure that their lives were not sacrificed in vain. We honor their sacrifice by carrying forward the mantle of freedom and the torch of liberty that they handed to us. We will guard it. We will teach it to our children. And we will pass it onto the next generation.”
Although this day 20 years ago will always be remembered as a tragedy, the speakers also noted that motivation can be drawn from how America responded.
“We use the slogan ‘never forget’, but it’s more than that,” said Norvell. “It is a call to truly remember that day. Remember the heroes who ran into the buildings to save lives, the incredible bravery of the passengers aboard flight 93, the men and women who dug through the rubble for days, hoping to find survivors, and the nearly 3,000 lost that day. Honor their memories. Never forget.”