Crestview marks nineteenth anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks
Crestview marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a subdued ceremony Friday at the Okaloosa County Veterans Memorial on Main Street in downtown Crestview.
Under mostly gray skies, representatives from the city’s government, police and fire departments took turns reading the names of all 2,977 victims of the terrorist attacks. The process took about an hour and 45 minutes, as the readers made their way through names from almost every letter in the alphabet.
The list was punctuated at times with the ringing of a bell to denote significant events of that day, from crash times of the four airliners to the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
Crestview firefighter Greg Pippin, who rang the bell, had been a firefighter with City of Crestview for about three years when terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 shocked the nation. Pippin recalled watching the news with other firefighters at the station as the events played out that day and thinking to himself “how could this happen?”
More than 400 emergency workers lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks, including 343 firefighters. For Pippen, the 19 years since that tragedy hasn’t blunted the shock that much.
“It was hard listening to those names,” said Pippin. And then knowing the other emergency personnel that lost their lives that day trying to help save the civilians.”
Friday’s event was scaled down because of the coronavirus. The event drew about 50 people, scattered in small groups around the memorial or in the widely spaced chairs set up in front of the podium. Among those was Crestview resident Eileen Kurtz.
Kurtz was working in Washington, D.C. when one of the hijacked airliners hit the Pentagon.
“I remember and relive it every single year,” said Kurtz. “It’s nice to be in a town where there’s actually a memorial service and a recognition of what the country went through 19 years ago…this is something we should never forget.”
That sentiment was echoed by JB Witten, retired history teacher and the mayor of Crestview.
“One of the worst things that happens in our society today is we start to forget about history, said Whitten. “We have young people who weren’t even born in 2001 when the attack was carried out on the World Trade Center and the other locations. I want to make sure that people never forget.”
To that end, Whitten said he’s already looking to next year’s event, which he says will likely be modeled on the city’s recent 2-day celebration marking the anniversary of the end of World War II.
“We haven’t even planned it all out yet,” said Whitten. “But next year is going to be a big commemoration of 9/11 20th anniversary.”