Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Liz Thompson
Sailors, first responders, friends and family gathered in USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) hangar bay today to attend a September 11th commemoration ceremony.
Captain Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, spoke on the events of September 11th and how the impact is still felt today.
“It’s a somber day,” said McCormack. “What makes September 11th different from other days in our nation’s history, and what makes it stand out? The answer is this – we are still at war. We still send people to the front lines. We are still committed to resolve a problem that became a highlight in everyone’s lives back in 2001.”
Guest speaker, Jeff Wise, Norfolk Fire Department chief, echoed those sentiments.
“Sixteen years ago today, life changed for most Americans,” said Wise. “Over the history of our country there have been many life-changing events, but few have been on our own soil, and fewer were intended to kill as many American citizens as possible while also intending to create fear among those of us who were not directly impacted by the September 11th attacks.”
Wise, as a firefighter, had similarities he related to that of being a military member.
“I have been privileged to speak on the events of September 11th a few times, but today, knowing my audience, I know that you would understand me when I say I felt a call to service. I know many of you felt and responded to that same call.”
Chief Master-at-Arms Gregory Brooks, of Ford’s security department and the event’s master-of-ceremonies, responded to that same call to service.
“I distinctly remember watching the events unfold on TV; I was in college,” said Brooks. “I always knew I would join the military, but for me it solidified my call to service and motivated me. I ended up enlisting shortly after that, faster than I had originally planned.”
Many around the country, civilian or military, answered that same call to service.
“As I look back on September 11, 2001, I realize the first Americans to fight back and resist the terrorists were the civilians and service members who came to the aid of others in a grave time of need,” said Wise. “The members of public safety were the first to take action towards this man-made destruction.”
Wise reflected on the camaraderie of the country between civilian and military members alike.
“In the weeks after September 11th, as a firefighter I remember feeling a sense of relief as the United States military was taking over the fight,” said Wise. “In the firefighting profession, when you get called to a fire near shift change, it is likely that you will get relieved from your shift at the scene of a fire. In the same way it seemed like the United States military, with a symbolic pat on the back, said ‘You can take a breath now, the fight is now ours, we have your back.’”
Coming together and having each other’s backs was a theme of both speakers’ speeches.
“I think the lesson of September 11th is resiliency,” said McCormack. “What we learned that day is that we have resiliency. It doesn’t matter what color, creed, orientation, where you’re from, whether you’re a citizen or not; everyone came together and fought a common fight.”
The addition to the sentiments of unison, there was also an undertone of remaining strong while answering the call to service.
“As a fire chief, a father, a grandfather, and as an American, I believe in peace through strength,” said Wise. “If there was ever a ship built to send that message it is the USS Gerald R. Ford.”