On Sept. 12, 2001, finding an American flag on a store shelf was near impossible – they were flying outside homes, schools, businesses and churches to show unity and patriotism in a time of tragedy.
“We were all proud Americans … we were united, we were strong,” said American Legion Department of Colorado Commander Dean Noechel Sept. 11 during Loveland Post 2000’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony. While looking at a massive American flag hanging from the ladder of a Loveland Fire Department truck at Foote Lagoon park where the ceremony was held, Noechel, whose theme as commander is “Reigniting Patriotism,” said, “I have seven brothers that came home underneath that flag. When I see that flag wave, it makes me proud to be an American.”
This was Post 2000’s fifth annual 9/11 ceremony where American Legion Family and community members, Loveland Mayor Jackie Marsh, the local fire and police departments, and other first responders came to the park to pay their respects and honor the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives, including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers, on a day that became the deadliest terror attack on American soil.
The ceremony opened with a 21-gun salute, posting of colors, singing of the National Anthem and opening remarks by Post 2000 member and chairman of the event Tony Abbott. He asked Legionnaires, veterans, law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, doctors and nurses to stand in recognition of their ongoing service, sacrifice and role in saving lives.
“It’s more important than ever for us to unify as Americans. Everybody that was here (for the ceremony) was here because they’re a patriot,” said Abbott, who was a volunteer fireman on the dive team and rope rescue team when the attacks occurred. “They’re all here because of what happened on Sept. 11.”
Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that forever changed America, one that many can recall where they were when news reached them that America was under attack, and one that instilled patriotism in Americans to serve their country.
Tabbott has a guest speaker each year for the ceremony to share how 9/11 changed them. This year it was Post 2000 Commander and Sons of The American Legion Squadron Commander Tony Koch, who was about three weeks in to his seventh grade year when teachers shared the shocking news. Then, five years later during his senior year in high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army “to be a part of something bigger. To continue the sense of honor and duty that I developed in the Boy Scouts,” he shared with the crowd. “If it were not for the first responders on that day, more lives could have been lost. You save, heal and protect this beautiful place we call home.”
The event for Loveland Assistant Police Chief Tim Brown is a reminder of “a very meaningful piece of a relationship (with the community) that was born out of tragedy,” said Brown, a law enforcement officer for 37 years. “The respect for the military, the first responders, law enforcement, emergency staff and then the show of support from the community, our veterans … that mutual respect and camaraderie is incredible.”
As online news stories throughout the day Wednesday recounted the events that occurred 18 years ago, Koch read a headline that stood out to him and one he closed his remarks with. “We need to start treating this era like we did Sept. 12, 2001, where everything is American and that we should become one.”
The ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps on a bugle and “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Sept. 11 remembrance events like the one held by Post 2000 are conducted throughout the country to never forget the sacrifices made and continue to be made by servicemembers.
“I want people to remember the sacrifice the civilians made … just by going to work. By taking a flight,” said Noechel, an Army veteran who was on active duty and stationed in Hawaii on Sept. 11, 2001. “I want everybody to remember that because for a military person, we signed up and we knew there was a chance we were going to go to combat. The (servicemembers) who joined after 9/11, they made the choice that they were going to defend our country because of what happened. Those (lost on 9/11) just went to work.”
Colorado Springs Post 209 Jr. Vice Commander Desiree Guerra was in 10th grade when she heard the news that lead her on the path to protect and defend her country.
“For people who joined (the military) after 9/11, we knew (what we were signing up for) … it was this fire inside of us that we’re going to do this and this is something that I’m committed to," she said. "I love my country enough to do that.”