Speakers at SUU’s 9/11 program touch on theme of ‘Never Forget’

CEDAR CITY — “Never Forget” was the theme of a special ceremony held Friday morning on the Southern Utah University campus to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

SUU Aviation helicopter flies off in “missing man” formation at beginning of “Patriot Day” program commemorating the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 9, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The 45-minute program was organized and sponsored by SUU Veteran Resource and Support Center.

The first of three featured speakers was Cedar City Fire Department firefighter Erick Cox, who said he remembered being inside the Utah Department of Transportation office in Cedar City with his coworkers that fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001, all of them staring at a screen in “horror and disbelief.”

“America was targeted for the attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, and no one will keep that light from shining,” said Cox, paraphrasing the words of then-President George W. Bush as he spoke to the nation in a televised address later that  evening. “Today our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.”

Cox also quoted from Bush’s remarks delivered exactly 20 years later, at the Flight 93 Memorial site in Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2021:

For those too young to recall that clear September day, it is hard to describe the mix of feelings we experienced. There was horror at the scale of destruction, and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it. There was shock at the audacity of evil, and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it. In the sacrifice of the first responders, in the mutual aid of strangers, in the solidarity of grief and grace, the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people. And we were proud of our wounded nation. 

Cox also shared the story of an 8-year-old girl whose father died when one of the hijacked airplanes hit the World Trade Center.

“Life is far too unpredictable and far too temporary to live it for anyone but yourself,” he said, quoting from the girl as she reflected back years later. “No person has an expiration date. I could die in 70 years or in 70 hours from now. And that is something that I know I cannot control. Something that I can control, however, is my life, in this moment, and what I choose to do with it.”

Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams speaks during Southern Utah University’s “Patriot Day” program commemorating the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 9, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams then spoke, noting that he had only been on the city’s police force for four years when 9/11 happened.

“I vividly remember waking up that morning and turning on the television to see the horror that was occurring in downtown New York City, in a field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.” Adams said. “My thoughts quickly went to sorrow and sadness, anger and disgust at the thought of someone or some group committing such atrocities against my fellow Americans.”

Added Adams: “When I think about the selflessness of our first responders, and the unwavering dedication of those who sacrifice so much in the defense, protection and rescue of strangers, I think about a quote from my favorite people, and that is former President Theodore Roosevelt, who said, and I quote, ‘No man is worth his salt, who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life in a great cause.’”

Adams also recounted when, just a couple of months after 9/11, he and a few other officers from Iron County went to New York to attend memorials, present check donations and tour the still-smoldering ruins at Ground Zero.

“We were welcomed with open arms and experienced the ultimate brotherhood that exists within our profession,” Adams recalled. 

“The many days, months and years since have demonstrated that our great country, our world, is not the same,” Adams added. “First responders and military patriots alike, our ways of doing business have changed. We are constantly vigilant to both foreign and domestic threats that were influenced by and are borne out of the atrocities on September 11.

“We are facing a new mindset and a new evil that creeps its way into every fabric of our lives,” he said. “We work hard to continually develop barriers and strategies to prevent similar attacks. And we work to develop intelligence to share information with our public safety partners.”

“The evil that crept into our country on 9/11 has caused us to have to consider it every day, and stand ready with our military brothers and sisters, to protect our borders, our communities and our neighborhoods,” Adams added. “Even with all that, there is so much to be happy about and thankful for. We should continue to enjoy life and live it to its fullest. Celebrate the magnificent work done by so many to secure our country and repel the enemy.”

A field of flags at the site of Southern Utah University’s “Patriot Day” program commemorating the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 9, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“The heart, courage, strength, bravery and optimism that America is known for should prevail within each one of us as we work side by side, hand in hand, heart to heart, living, loving and supporting each other,” he said. “On behalf of all first responders. I want to say thank you for your support and your prayers as we labor daily to do our very best.”

The program’s third and final speaker was SUU agriculture student and military veteran Will Clemons, who spent time in both the Air Force as a firefighter and in the Army as a cavalry scout. He said he was a young elementary school student at the time of 9/11, so most of his own memories of that fateful day are derived from the news clippings kept by his mother.

Clemons called 9/11 “a milestone where generations have chosen to defend their country.”

“I thank everyone for laying out that foundation from that day, as we are able to live better lives from the actions of everybody,” he said. “That day may be in the history books, but the waves that it has caused has changed everyone’s lives forever.”

Marsden Zinda, also an SUU student and a military veteran, thanked those in attendance as he gave a few closing remarks.

The program also featured a flag ceremony by the Cedar City Civil Air Patrol cadets, the singing of the national anthem by Debra Stillman and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Dan Jones. SUU Aviation also did a flyover at the beginning of the ceremony, with one helicopter veering off in “missing man” formation.

Two more military recognition events are scheduled to take place in Cedar City next week:

  • The Iron County Veterans Coalition will hold its annual picnic and awards ceremony on Monday at 6 p.m. at Cedar City’s Park Discovery. A veterans resource truck will be there and the new veterans service officer will be introduced. The officer, who works for Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, will assist both community and student veterans with benefits and other resources, in partnership with SUU’s Veteran Resource and Support Center. For more information about the event, call 435-708-1938.
  • On Friday, Sept. 16, SUU will host a special ceremony in honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day, featuring Vietnam veterans John Fenn and Ron Vargas as speakers. The program is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. at the flagpoles in front of the J. L. Sorenson Physical Education Building.

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