By Jeff Murphy, September 11, 2023
A United States flag was supended from a Warrensburg Fire Department ladder truck, hanging over 2, 977 smaller flags on the University of Central Missouri quadrangle, as the campus community and local first responders honored victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the nation.
WARRENSBURG, MO – Joined by campus, city and county first responders, members of the University of Central Missouri community today honored 2,977 individuals who lost their lives during the worst terrorist attack on United States soil on Sept. 11, 2001. The Moment of Silence event took place on the west side of the university quadrangle amid rows of small U.S. flags placed on the lawn in memory of each person who perished in that incident, and whom are not forgotten.
“Today, we remember those lives that were lost and the impact it had on our country,” said Courtney Swoboda, director of Military and Veterans Services at UCM. “We thank our first responders for their work, dedication and sacrifices. We also remember the impact this day had for our military, along with serving 20 years in Afghanistan, and we thank them for their service and sacrifices.”
Across the nation today, Sept. 11, 2023,communities and organizations are conducting remembrance ceremonies to honor the victims of the 9/11 tragedy. This historic event involved the destruction of the twin towers that comprised the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York; an attack on the U.S. Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and a passenger jet crash in a Pennsylvania field. These events were all the result of commercial airplanes that were hijacked by terrorists. While killing and injuring many people, these incidents also prompted safety and security changes nationwide that continue to impact citizens today.
During the campus observance, members of the UCM Army ROTC Color Guard presented the U.S. flag and the Missouri state flag at the flagpole at the center of the quadrangle. This was followed by a moment of silence, after which the Warrensburg Fire Department conducted its traditional ringing of the bell activities to honor individuals who lost their lives in 9/11.
Doyle Oxley, deputy fire chief for the Warrensburg Fire Department, spoke about the significance of this event, while firefighters, Capt. Ryan Smith, Division Chief Matt Soer, and Sam White conducted the ringing of the bell.
In his remarks, Oxley said members of today’s fire service are confronted with many dangerous work environments unlike any they have ever faced before.
“We have been forced to continue to change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our task,” he said. “Our methods may have changed but our goals remain the same as they were in the past to save lives and protect property, sometimes at a terrible cost, as we all know. This is what we do. This is our chosen profession. This is the tradition of a firefighter.”
Oxley added that although the fire service is ever changing, it is steeped in 200 years of tradition. This includes the ceremonial ringing of the bell.
“In the past, as firefighters began their tour of duty, the bell signaled the start of today’s shift,” Oxley said. “Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by the bell, which summoned brave souls to fight fires, and who placed their lives in jeopardy for the good of all citizens. And, when the fire was out, and the alarm was at its end, the bell signaled the completion of that call.”
When a firefighter died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice for their, Oxley said the bell rang a “mournful toll that solemnly announced the comrade’s passing.”
“We utilize these traditions as symbols which reflect the honor and respect given to so many who served so well - to symbolize the devotion these brave souls had for their duty,” he added.
The special signal of three (rings), three times, represents the end of a firefighter’s duties. It recognizes that they have given their life selflessly for the good of others, and with their task completed, and duties well done, they have met their final alarm and “they are going home,” Oxley told the gathering.
Encouraging those in attendance to “never forget” the events of 9/11, Swoboda thanked the Warrensburg Fire Department, UCM Army ROTC Fighting Mules Battalion, the university’s DET 440 Air Force ROTC cadets, UCM Public Safety, Warrensburg Police Department, Johnson County Ambulance District, and area veterans and service members who participated in the Patriot Day Moment of Silence event.