By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ellen Hilkowski,
USS Curtis Wilbur Public Affairs
PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 11, 2016) – The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) held a Sept. 11 memorial observance on the mess decks.
The ship took time out from training and a busy work day to stop and remember those whose lives were lost.
“Remembering this sad day in our nation’s history reminds us to not get lost in the mundane,” said Cmdr. Amy Graham, Curtis Wilbur’s commanding officer. “Every part of your job that you do, no matter how small, helps to protect our way of life and to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.”
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Omar Navarro was on board the USS Cleveland (LPD 7) while returning home from deployment Sept. 11, eager to see his pregnant wife, and unaware of the events that were taking place at home. The ship returned to the U.S. four days after the terrorist attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City.
“That first day we were home I saw a nation united. Every overpass had a flag hanging from it and every car had a flag waving from its window. Patriotism radiated from every corner of the country,” said Navarro. “More than anything, it opened my eyes on how quickly such a tragedy can unite a nation. Nothing mattered, not your race, not your sexual orientation, not your gender, nothing. The only thing that mattered was that we were Americans.”
The U.S. Navy deployed destroyers and hospital ships to Washington D.C. and New York City to provide relief efforts in the days following the attacks.
Command Master Chief Jeremiah Montanez spoke at length on how the attacks on Sept. 11 personally affected him and how important it is to be strong in the face of terrorism.
“It was my dream-come-true to come to America 30 years ago, and these attacks on my country make me angry and sad,” said Montanez. “Remembering Sept. 11th reminds me that my Navy is strong and we will remain fearless in the face of terrorism.”
The ceremony was led by Curtis Wilbur’s chief petty officer selectees, each sharing their own accounts of how the Sept. 11 attacks had impacted their lives.
After sharing their stories, they read aloud the events of that fateful day as follows: 15 years ago, 19 men hijacked four U.S. commercial airplanes bound for the west coast. The first and second were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 75 which were purposefully crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, New York City, killing 2,753 people. The second was American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon, killing 184 people. Among those fatalities 33 active duty service members, six civilians and three contractors belonged to the Department of the Navy. The final was United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing 40 passengers and crewmembers.
For many, recounting the 9/11 events allowed the crew of Curtis Wilbur to come together and remember those who have served before them, those who gave their life in service and those peers who serve alongside them now.