The memories and sentiment of the day that two passenger jets brought down the World Trade Center, a third smashed into the Pentagon and a fourth went down in rural Pennsylvania remained vivid 20 years later for Yellowstone County residents Saturday.
Throughout the county, politicians and first responders paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 killed Sept. 11, 2001, and the thousands more killed and wounded in the war that followed. Along with remembering the lives lost, speakers at several events also reminded audiences of the unity that followed the chaos.
“The biggest takeaway that I have from 9/11 was how this nation suddenly pulled together. We were a giant community of common purpose, and that made me proud,” said Lew Kosich, a former Navy pilot during the Vietnam War and a graduate of Billings Senior High who spoke at the Montana 9/11 Memorial at Montana State University Billings’ City College.
A total of 2,977 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, 412 of them police, firefighters and paramedics. In the two decades since, more than 7,000 U.S. service members died serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other front lines of the War on Terror, according to data from Brown University’s Costs of War project. This estimate of civilians killed in those operations is at well over 300,000.
At the National September 11 Memorial in New York, three U.S. presidents listened to the names of the victims of the attacks read aloud, the Associated Press reported. Joining President Joe Biden were Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
While Biden was still serving as senator 20 years ago, Kosich who was a director of flight operations support for United Airlines. While waiting to catch a flight from Chicago to his home in Denver, his three beepers and cell phone all went off at the same time. Shortly after, he became part of the response to guide hundreds of cancelled flights to safety as the nation went on lockdown.
“In a community of common purpose, members give up their personal agendas,” said Kosich, standing in front of a 612-pound piece of steel pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
In Laurel, Gov. Greg Gianforte spoke at the Montana State Firefighters Memorial. What the terrorist attacks proved, he said, was the bond between all Americans in their willingness to help those in danger and in mourning. Also speaking at the ceremony and sharing in this conviction were Laurel police, firefighter and ambulance officials.