Story by MC2 Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo by MC3 Crishanda McCall

Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks during a memorial ceremony Sept. 11.

Sailors gathered in hangar bay two to pay their respects to the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives that fateful September morning and the countless who have died in its wake while defending the United States from the threat of terrorism.

“It is important that we as an institution, the United States Navy, take time out of our very busy schedule to feel, reflect and ultimately remember the horrific events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001,” said Stennis’ Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis. The enemies of freedom had committed an act of war against our country and all of their hate was brought upon us without warning or care for the innocent.”

The ceremony began with a screening of photographs from the morning of the attacks and the aftermath in the days that followed. The service then paid particular tribute to the 125 Sailors, Soldiers and civilians who were killed when United Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Lt. Cmdr. Bill Motes, the administrative officer for Carrier Air Wing 9, embarked aboard Stennis, was working at the Pentagon that day and recalled to the crowd how a call from his wife just minutes before the crash stopped him and his coworkers from entering an area of the building that was destroyed in the attack.

“After some reflection I realized that if my wife hadn’t called at that precise time I, along with my Sailors, would have lost our lives,” said Motes. “At times I feel guilty for being a survivor. Why them and not me? It is a difficult feeling to express. Yes, I am thankful to still be alive, but I grieve every day for my brothers and sisters who lost their lives and for the families they left behind.”

An American flag discovered beneath the rubble of the WorldTradeCenter’s NorthTower was displayed center stage during the ceremony. Stennis was one of the first ships called to action in the beginning of the War on Terror, and the flag has been displayed aboard since Sept. 15, 2001, serving as both a symbol of America’s determination in the face of terrorism and of the United States Navy’s swift response to an attack on its homeland.

“People sleep soundly because of our service,” said Commander, John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Rear Adm. Craig Faller. “We are out here standing the watch. It is our time and we are joining this war. We only have one chance to make a difference and honor the lives lost.”

The ceremony came to a close as the names of those who perished in the attack on the Pentagon were read aloud, accompanied by a ring of the ship’s bell. Immediately following the reading, a 21-gun salute set to “Taps” rang through the hangar bay as a solemn tribute to the fallen.

“We must put the smoldering remembrance of 9/11 in our wake, not to forget, but to look ahead at the promise we see here Sept. 11, 2011,” said Faller. “We must be ready to take the fight to our enemies and support the Marines and the Soldiers in the foxholes on the ground. And we will. Let’s honor the memory of 9/11 and never forget.”

John C. Stennis Sailors continue to serve just as they did ten years ago in response to a national tragedy, sailing into harm’s way to protect and defend the United States, allies and partners across the globe.

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled seven-month deployment to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Operation.