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story.lead_photo.caption Flags are displayed to commemorate the Sept. 11 anniversary at the Freedom Corner, located at the intersection of East High and McCarty streets. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Today marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and while some have tried to forget or don't even remember events from that day, local veterans, first responders, legislators and school officials remain committed to never forget.

On Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon building in Virginia and a field in Pennsylvania, killing thousands of people.

On the 18th anniversary of 9/11, the Missouri Legislature will be at the Capitol for the veto session and special session.

"September 11, 2001, was one of the darkest, most tragic days in our nation's history," Gov. Mike Parson said via email. "We must never forget the heroes we lost, their families and loved ones, and the many firefighters, first responders and everyday Americans who risked their lives to help. While we can never repay the sacrifices they made, we can continue to honor and remember them by observing this day."

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, told the News Tribune he planned to honor the memories of those who died on 9/11 by asking for a moment of silence on the Senate floor.

"Even though these horrific attacks happened in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, they touched every one of us," he said. "It was an attack against our country. As Americans, I think we owe it to those lost to remember them."

Also known as Patriot Day, 9/11 holds a special meaning for veterans like state Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1967-70. That event, he said, caused the United States to come together as a country.

"We need to continue to have these remembrances to show our children and grandchildren what we were doing on that day. It's like when I was growing up, on Nov. 22, 1963, I can tell you where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Those landmark events in our history need to be shared and the impact it had on you and the impact they had on all of us."

The majority of K-12 students do not remember 9/11, but that hasn't stopped the Blair Oaks R-2 School District from holding ceremonies every year.

Before school today, students will lay down flags at the Blair Oaks High School that represent each life lost during 9/11, Superintendent Jim Jones said. At the Blair Oaks Middle School, students will honor first responders and learn more about the terrorist attacks, he added.

Sept. 11 has become more than a day when citizens remember the attacks, Jones said. It is a day that honors selfless acts from emergency personnel and military service members.

"We had law enforcement, as well as firemen and women, that were going up into a building, obviously not knowing what was going to occur," he said. "They didn't think about themselves at that moment; they thought about their service to others. We can't take those people for granted."

Don Hentges, president of the Jefferson City Veterans' Council, recommended residents who don't remember 9/11 to speak with family members who have served in the military or worked as first responders to better understand what sacrifices those individuals made.

Educating youth will help ensure the country does not experience another terrorist attack like 9/11, Hentges added.

After 9/11, World War II veteran Pete Adkins helped start Jefferson City's Operation Bugle Boy, a nonprofit organization that honors veterans, soldiers and first responders.

"We felt like the country was in a really bad condition and we're going to try to do what we can here in Jeff City to work on the problem," he said.

Operation Bugle Boy and the American Legion Post 5 teamed up earlier this week to provide dinners to local first responders. Operation Bugle Boy will also hold its annual Veterans Appreciation Night in November.

"We do our best to honor our first responders and our veterans and our troops every day of the year," Operation Bugle Boy President Chris Jarboe said.

Operation Bugle Boy encourages youths to volunteer with the organization and support veterans, military personnel and first responders, Jarboe said.

"A country who doesn't honor its heroes is a country that's not going to exist for very much longer," he said. "It's an opportunity for people to stop and really pay attention to what's important."

In observation of 9/11, East Side Business Association President Hank Stratman said he put up flags around Freedom Corner, at the intersection of East McCarty and East High streets. The display features a granite monument topped with a bronze eagle and engraved pavers.

ESBA and the American Legion Post 5 also partnered to create the two patriotic roundabouts at the intersection of East McCarty Street and U.S. 50, Stratman added. The two organizations dedicated the roundabouts in June.

Local first responders said they will continue to honor their fallen comrades in the best way they know how — by continuing to serve their community.

To Jefferson City Fire Chief Matt Schofield, "never forget" must be an unwavering commitment, one he plans to show while working alongside the Jefferson City firefighters today and every day.

"To me, that means we must reflect on the events of that day with reverence and honor while looking forward with continuing vigilance and grit," he said. "As a young Boy Scout, the first thing I learned was to always be prepared in everything we do — in training, physical fitness, equipment maintenance. Continuous improvement is focused on being prepared for whatever challenge comes our way."

Lt. David Williams, with the Jefferson City Police Department, said the department plans to "do business the same way every day."

However, the department did take away some valuable lessons from that day. Williams remembers working in Jefferson City on 9/11 and how there were concerns Missouri or even Jefferson City could be the site for an attack.

"When it originally happened that morning, we didn't know what was going on," he recalled. "We were concerned about us being a target because there was talk about St. Louis with the Arch being a target since it was a symbol, and we have to take into consideration that we are the Capital City. We didn't know at what level it was going to get to so we had to increase our awareness on that day, and it's something we constantly have to look at and make sure we're not forgetting that we are the capital."

This increased awareness applies to all public safety entities across Missouri, Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten told division directors during a leadership summit Tuesday. Following 9/11, DPS added a statewide interoperable radio network, the Missouri Information Analysis Center, the Homeland Security Advisory Council and regional councils, the Office of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces and more, Karsten said.

"As one DPS leader summed it up, 'On 9/11, it became clear to all of us that life in the U.S. had changed. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the secure feeling of safety we had felt on American soil was gone,'" Karsten said in an emailed statement to the News Tribune.

To honor military and local first responders, the Women's Council of Realtors-Jefferson City Area will host its second barbecue lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. today at the McClung Park Indoor Pavilion, 931 McClung Park Drive.

"We wanted the first responders to know that we appreciate them in our own hometown and wanted to do a little something for them to make them feel special," said Kayla Hoey, president of the local Women's Council of Realtors.

Lunch cost $12, but veterans and current military personnel and first responders will be free. The proceeds will go toward covering the cost of the event, Hoey said.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K run and walk will take place from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at the Missouri Governor's Garden, 101 Jefferson St.

The event is in honor of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001, after putting on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers, according to the event's website.

Adult, first responders and military personnel registration cost $25. Registration for children 17 years old and younger is $10, according to the event's website.

The State Fire Marshal's 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is slated for Oct. 19 at the Jefferson State Office Building, 205 Jefferson St.

During the event, participants will take 10 trips to the top of the 13-story Jefferson Building, climbing 2,600 stairs. This is the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center towers, DPS Communications Director Mike O'Connell previously said.

It cost $35 for climbers and $30 for virtual climbers, according to the event's website.

While residents should remember 9/11, Ward 4 Jefferson City Councilman Ron Fitzwater said, they should also not forget the unity that came Sept. 12, 2001.

"On that day, we began to put aside the issues that divided us as a country, and we began to pull together to console the families of the 2,977 people who lost their lives, and we began to focus on the things we had in common and the real issues that mattered," he said. "We need that unity back in our country."

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