Fort Lee Garrison Commander Col. Karin L. Watson talks of heroism

Fort Lee Garrison Commander Col. Karin L. Watson talks of heroism from 9/11/2001 during Friday’s Virtual Remembrance Ceremony at Liberty Chapel. 

It has been 19 years since the United States was terrorized in a series of attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead, more than 6,000 injured and an entire country in shock.

The tears flowing in Liberty Chapel as Garrison Commander Col. Karin L. Watson spoke and chaplains led attendees through prayer and song during a short but solemn 9/11 Virtual Remembrance Ceremony last Friday seemed to show that the passage of time will not soon heal the pain of loss from that horrendous act – not now, nor at any point in the future.

Due to COVID-19, a small number of people physically attended this year’s gathering while many more watched on Facebook.

Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, was one of those struggling a bit with the pain brought on by the 9/11 memories. He sat alongside his wife Janie during the ceremony.

“It’s just the memories of that day. It was a tough time for the nation, and we were all shocked by what happened,” Fogg explained. “I’ll never forget that I was at Fort Campbell, in my office working already. ... Everybody’s life changed.

“All of the memories of the things that occurred after that, and the memories of those people I’ve served with who gave their lives in all of the things we did afterward to protect our nation. I was just reliving all of it, and it definitely had an impact on me today.”

Memories of that infamous date in history also reflected strongly during Watson’s speech at the ceremony.

“(While deployed to Egypt) I remember looking on in horror at the TV screens showing the burning towers ... the Pentagon in flames ... the aircraft debris in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” Watson recalled from the podium.

“Nonetheless, on that dreadful day, we also saw something noticeably American: ordinary people rising to meet extra-ordinary events and responding with amazing acts of courage and bravery.  I remember how we all pulled together as a country to uplift each other.  And not just that day, but in the days, the months, the years to follow.  For although it was a day of unimaginable tragedy, it was also was a day when courage, love and kindness abundantly swept through America.”

Her ensuing words reminded those watching of the heroism and unity that swept the U.S. and the world after the attacks.

“It was a day when all around the world, people stood up in solidarity. We witnessed courage in office workers who were confined on the high floors of infernal skyscrapers and called home so the final words to their families would be of comfort and love.  We heard of the heroism in passengers aboard Flight 93 who recited the 23rd Psalm, then charged the cockpit. In addition, we observed self-sacrificing determination in the Pentagon staff who made it out of the flames and smoke, and ran back in to answer cries for help. 

She concluded her speech by reminding everyone that in remembering the lives lost, the nation ensures their memory lives on “in our hearts, in our acts of kindness and in our acts of self-sacrifice.

“Not only on Patriot’s Day but really every day, let us continue to instill the pride and patriotism that is the soul of America,” Watson challenged. “We will – and must – never forget.”

Fogg agreed. “Every traumatic event, there’s things you learn, and there’s growth that occurs with it. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want there to be a time when I’m not emotionally affected by thinking about 9/11 and what occurred and the ripple effects from that attack on us. We have to go through tough times to get growth, and our nation has gotten stronger because of it.”