As the sun began to set on Saturday in Missoula, the somber notes of “Taps” floated out over thousands of tiny American flags planted in the ground at Memorial Rose Garden Park to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Organized by Susan Campbell Reneau, the 19th annual “Never Forget” service drew a crowd of well over 200 people to honor all those who died that day and the sacrifices made by first responders.
Captain Bill Burt, a deputy with the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, dedicated his remarks to the police officers who died in the attacks.
“The terrorist attacks on September 11 resulted in more law enforcement line-of-duty deaths than any other single incident in our nation’s history,” Burt said.
“Seventy-one officers were killed when the twin towers collapsed,” he added. “Dozens more passed away in the years following 9/11 as a direct result of illnesses contracted while working in hazardous conditions conducting rescues and recoveries.”
Those men and women are “true American heroes,” Burt said.
“Now perhaps more than ever, it’s important we stand together as a community and as a nation to make sure that we never forget the events of 9/11 and the sacrifices so many have made,” Burt said.
Tom Zeigler, a retired Missoula Rural Fire Department firefighter, told the crowd how he had befriended members of a New York City-based fire crew during a training operation in Montana. Many of them later died on 9/11.
Zeigler read their names, noting that he and other firefighters had helped find their bodies amid the wreckage. Some, however, were never found.
Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy Seal commander who is running for Congress, read the names of the 13 U.S. military personnel who were killed in a bombing in Afghanistan in August of this year.