On September 10, 2021 – the day prior to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 – Warriors & Quiet Waters Foundation (WQW) held its signature fundraiser to raise critical operating dollars to fuel WQW’s mission. What follows are the opening remarks by WQW CEO Brian Gilman, Colonel, USMC (Ret.).
Twenty years ago tomorrow, at 8:46 am Eastern Time, 5 terrorist hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into floors 93 through 99 of the World Trade Center North Tower. The 76 passengers and 11 crew members on board and hundreds inside the building were killed instantly. The crash severed all three emergency stairwells and trapped hundreds of people above the 91st floor.
This act of wanton murder set off the chain of events that, for all of us who were adults at the time, seared memories in our lives that we’ll never forget.
Soon after, at 9:03 am, five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center South Tower.
Over the course of the next 34 minutes while American Airlines Flight 77 was making its way toward the Pentagon, people trapped in the North Tower – our fellow citizens – started jumping to their deaths rather than face fires that were by then raging in the North Tower.
At 9:37am, five hijackers crashed American Airlines 77 into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The 53 passengers and six crew members on board perish instantly. The crash and ensuing fire killed 125 military and civilian personnel on the ground.
Twenty minutes later, at 9:57 am, over Westmoreland County Pennsylvania, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 begin their assault on the cockpit to retake the flight from four terrorist hijackers.
Two minutes later, the World Trade Center South Tower collapses in 10 seconds. More than 800 civilians and first responders inside the building and in the surrounding area are killed.
After a 6-minute struggle, at 10:03, four hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 93 in a field near the town of Shanksville, PA after passengers and the crew storm the cockpit. The 33 passengers and seven crew members on board perish.
These heroes who fought back against the hijackers, sacrificing all they had and would have, undoubtedly saved hundreds of others as it is believed that Flight 93 was targeting the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House.
Twelve minutes later, at 10:15 am, a portion of the E-Ring at the Pentagon collapses.
At 10:28 am, the World Trade Center North Tower collapses after burning for 102 minutes. More than 1600 people are killed as a result.
In 102 minutes, nineteen terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 men, women and children – our fellow citizens.
As we remember 9/11, my first ask of you tonight is that we observe a moment of silence in memory of those who were murdered on 9/11.
I was in my truck on College Blvd in Oceanside, California on my way to work at 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, stationed at Camp Pendleton when I first heard about the attacks on the radio.
As soon as I got to work, my fellow Marines and I huddled around a TV and watched the horrific events that I just described unfold.
The images on the TV were heart-wrenching. Images of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center towers. Images of the towers collapsing into immense piles of rubble and dust.
I distinctly remember that when I watched the South Tower collapse, the feeling I felt was not horror, but rather a deep, abiding anger.
The next feeling I felt was purpose.
Purpose because I was a United States Marine who knew with certainty in that moment, that I would soon get the opportunity to take the fight to this cowardly enemy who so ruthlessly murdered 3,000 of our fellow citizens.
And over the course of the next twenty years, that is exactly what I and more than 1.7 million of my fellow post-9/11 combat veterans did…We took the fight to the enemy…We fought forward in order to defend our home.
In the ensuing battles, 7,053 U.S. military personnel gave their last full measure of devotion to their brothers and sisters in defense of our freedom from terrorism, including the 11 Marines, 1 Sailor, and 1 Soldier that we lost in the suicide attack at Kabul airport.
My second ask of you tonight is that we observe a moment of silence in remembrance of these heroes….
Since 9/11, over 50,000 post-9/11 veterans suffered life-changing physical wounds. Additionally, current estimates are that upwards of 700,000 post-9/11 veterans suffered symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and hundreds of thousands suffered some form of Traumatic Brain Injury.
Tragically, researchers estimate that over 30,000 active-duty service members and veterans of the post-9/11 era have died by suicide – more than four times the number lost in combat operations.
Since our withdrawal from Afghanistan, the news will tell you that the war is over. What they are missing is the fact that the enemy gets a vote. It’s not over just because we take our toys and go home.
ISIS, Al Qaeda, Russia and China all get a vote and they all sense weakness and division in America. They will come after us.
When they do, we’ll need Warriors willing to fight forward and make the same sacrifices that our post-9/11 combat veterans have made over the past two decades.
So my last ask of you tonight is this: Remember that the enemy gets a vote. The enemy wishes to do us harm. And when the time comes, we’re going to need Warriors – volunteers willing to wield violence and face violence on our behalf in defense of our freedom and way of life.
Remember that many of post-9/11 combat veterans have made an enduring commitment that’s going to affect them and their families for the rest of their lives.
Remember that our commitment to them must be no less enduring.
Remember that in order to sustain our all-volunteer force, we have to demonstrate that military service is valued and valuable. If we fail to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to take care of those who have borne the battle, and their widows, and their orphans then America’s sons and daughters will not raise their hands and swear an oath to protect and defend our constitution.
Finally, remember why you are here tonight…to help Warriors & Quiet Waters Foundation serve our mission to help post-9/11 combat veterans find peace, meaning, and purpose through fly-fishing.