Prince William County residents, staff, elected officials and other dignitaries gathered at the Sean T. Connaughton Plaza on Monday to honor and remember those who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Board of County Supervisors Chair At-Large Ann Wheeler spoke about the tragic day that changed the nation when nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks. Prince William county lost 22 residents, more than any other jurisdiction in the Washington D.C. Metro Area.
Wheeler urged people to honor those who were lost, but also asked people to remember the days that followed.
“Let’s also not forget September 12th and what that meant for the healing and strength of our country. How at the end of the day, we are stronger together, we are better together, and we are more resilient together,” Wheeler said. “Let us honor and thank our first responders who willingly run toward danger to save and protect others, and let us make a commitment to be kind to one another, to love one another, and to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed that tragic day...”
The ceremony included the “Tolling of the Bell,” a custom brought forward from the days when fire departments across the country used telegraph systems to communicate. When a firefighter died in the line of duty, the fire alarm officer would tap out three sets of five measured dashes with a pause between each set to note the fallen hero. Prince William Fire and Rescue Lt. Jeff Howdyshell rang a silver bell in the familiar pattern to note the losses of Sept. 11, 2001.
“As you know, September 11th is officially known as Patriot Day,” said Prince William Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dan Alexander. “On that tragic day, ordinary Americans demonstrated uncommon courage, fierce resolve and unwavering perseverance. These extraordinary heroes will forever be honored and memorialized as true patriots... More than 400 of the fallen were our heroic first responders. On that day, they courageously faced unprecedented threats and challenges as they risked their lives to save others.”
Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Technician II Eamonn Radburn played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes after the reading of the names of the 22 lost that day from Prince William County. Cindy Leigh sang the national anthem at the beginning of the ceremony, and Bugler Donna Flory ended the ceremony with “Taps.”
Vietnam Veteran Bubba Beckwith rides with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and has been attending the annual county memorial ceremonies for about a decade.
“We all had brothers and sisters that died in 9-11,” Beckwith said after the short ceremony. “Don’t forget, we don’t want this to just be part of a history book. My grandkids weren’t even born yet, so they know nothing about it. So, they might see these remembrance ceremonies and ask what it’s about, and you get the chance to sit down and talk to them and ask them not to forget.”
U.S Air Force Veteran Susan Schneider, a member of the Prince William Resolves Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, also came to the ceremony to remember.
“We should never, ever forget and we should honor the fallen, especially on that day and after,” Schneider said.
Prince William County’s fallen include:
The entire remembrance ceremony is available on the county’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/princewilliamcounty.