Under a clear azure sky, remarkably the same as it was 14 years ago, several hundred people gathered in Alexandria’s Market Square to commemorate and reflect on the date when terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center and slammed into the Pentagon, killing nearly 4,000 Americans.
John D. Sims, the key organizer of the event, told the gathering, “today is an opportunity for us all to give back and to remember those who served and sacrificed on that date, and since. Each of us today is not just a witness, but also a participant, as we all were on 9-11.” A retired Army officer, Sims was the senior operations officer in the National Military Command Center on that day.
Following a request from J. R. “Bob” Wood, a retired lieutenant general and another key organizer, Sims and a group of veterans created a “flash 9-11 commemoration” that, while “veteran initiated, was city supported and citizen run, Sims said.” Also speaking were Mayor Bill Eullie, Alexandria Fire Chief Robert Dube, former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who was in office on 9-11, and Wood,
Several dozen members of the audience also took advantage of Sims’ invitation to come onstage and share their thoughts about 9-11 and what that day has meant to them.
Friday’s event was set in motion Thursday afternoon when Wood encouraged Sims and a group of veterans to plan an event since the City had no city-wide commemoration planned.
Sims contacted City Hall late that afternoon, where he requested that Alexandria Veterans be able to organize and conduct such an event. It was approved and supported by the City, which made Market Square available.
Sims quickly reached out to Alexandria’s American Legion Post 24, the Capitol Post, Team RWB and other veterans, as well as to the city’s Fire, Police and Sheriff’s departments, and to other organizations and individuals.
The group used Twitter, Facebook and emails to get the word out, hence Sims’s calling it a “flash” commemoration.
(Photo credit @AlexandriaVAFD on Twitter)