At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, a passenger jetliner hijacked by Islamic terrorists crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:03 a.m., people watch in horror as a second passenger jet crashed in the South Tower. At 9:40 a.m., a third passenger jet crashes in the Pentagon, and at about 10:07 a.m., a fourth jet, bound for Washington, D.C., crashes into a field in Somerset County.
At 8:46 a.m. today, the 12th anniversary of the worst foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, Americans gathered to remember.
One such remembrance ceremony took place at Josiah White Park in Jim Thorpe.
A stunned America watched the events unfold live on televised newscasts, said Air Force Reserve Maj. Gen (Ret.) Jay Barry.
"It began to sink in that America would never, ever be the same," he told the crowd.
Barry walked the audience through the events of that dreadful day, describing the attacks and the country's response.
"On that day, we created a new America," he said. "We were all as one."
Barry urged American citizens to never forget the attacks, which killed about 3,000 people.
"The challenge we have today is not to forget that. It's been 12 years. We've faced other challenges. we must never forget the sacrifices, the deaths not deaths, the murders that took place that day," he said.
"But our country is still strong. We Americans are still strong. We recognize that the enemy we fight knows no nation, calls no nation its home, knows no borders for its fight, and for the most part, remains faceless to us," he said.
"America, be vigilant. Be watchful. But most of all, be Americans: Pride, duty, dedication," he said.
Harry Wynn IV, past commander of VFW Post 256, Lehighton, conducted the ceremony, which began with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.
"We have to keep remembering this time, as we do Pearl Harbor Day," he said. He advised Americans to keep vigilant.
Local church bells began to toll as Carbon County Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein began to speak.
He spoke of empty chairs at holiday gatherings, the absence of mothers as their daughters grow up.
"Every day since 9/11, there is an empty seat," he said.
He recited the numbers of emergency responders who perished that day: 341 firefighters, two of whom were paramedics; 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 city police officers; eight emergency medical personnel. As of June 2009, he said, over 800 of those who responded have also died.
Nothstein expressed gratitude to the emergency responders who swung into action on that day.
The men who hijacked the planes 15 Saudis, two United Arab Emirates residents, a Lebanese and an Egyptian were members of an Islamic terrorist organization, al-Qaida.
The attacks were "cowardly actions," said Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek.
The day, he said, "Absolutely changed the world forever."
O'Gurek urged people to come together as we did in the days following the attacks.
"I believe it is up to each and every one of us to be fortified with the spirit of pride and the spirit of patriotism in ouir hearts. That's the best way to perpetuate the memory and the honor of those who died," he said.
"We must move forward as one people," he said.
State Sen. John Yudichak's aide, Mark Grochocki also attended the service.
Carbon County Commissioner Tom Gerhard urged vigilance.
"We must never allow ourselves to forget that day," he said. "Our enemies need to know we will never forget that day. We are watching, and we are remembering."
State Rep. Doyle Heffley, who was in New York City at 4 a.m. the morning of the attacks, also expressed gratitude for those who lost their lives in service during and immediately after the attacks, and urged Americans to continue fighting the enemy.
Angela Nardini sang the national anthem and God Bless America. Gilbert Henry, chaplain of American Legion Post 304 of Jim Thorpe and VFW Post 294 of Albrightsville, offered the invocation, A Remembrance of 9/11, and the benediction. A rifle squad and color guard, composed of members of veterans' organizations in the county, stood proudly at attention.
The ceremony ended with a rifle volley, presentation of colors, and Taps.