Twenty years after the Twin Towers fell, a small group of people gathered at Twisp’s American Legion post for a moment of silence, prayer and a few thoughtful words about the reverberating effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“For me, it’s difficult to wrap my mind around the immensity of the event and the immensity of how it changed America,” said Capt. Barth Merrill, recently retired from the U.S. Navy and the post’s new public affairs officer.
Twisp’s American Legion post members realized last week that no memorial was scheduled in the town, and while it’s not an anniversary of a military event, they decided that it was important to come together for a short ceremony, Merrill said.
“I believe when most people think of 9/11, they conflate it with everything that came after and there’s emotions and there’s beliefs tied up with wars and politics. That’s not what I really want to talk about,” Merrill said. “So for a few minutes I want to try to forget … anything tied up with everything that came after and just think about the humanity.”
About 3,000 people died during the attacks, and about a third have still not been identified. Most of them were civilians traveling or going to work, Merrill said.
“What I ask you to do is to think about yourself, think about the last 20 years of your life,” he said. “Marriages, births, kids’ birthday parties, promotions, career changes, deaths of family members, meeting new friends, graduations. … Think about all the friendships you’ve made, the relationships. All the people you’ve helped, the times people have helped you, the incredible richness of everyone’s life for the last two decades.”
For victims of 9/11, none of that ever happened.
“Then think about that gaping whole in humanity and multiply it by thousands. I think that’s what the real cost, the real cost of 9/11 was.”
Legion members raised the U.S. flag, then set it at half mast during the short ceremony. Earlier that morning they raised flags throughout Twisp.
Chaplain Carolyn Groninger closed the memorial by offering a prayer for the people who died on Sept. 11 and leaving a bouquet of flowers at the flagpole.
“Today we remember the worst attack on America,” she said. “We pray for the lost [and] forever injured, we pray for the families and remember the victims.”
Merrill urged people to remember one of the core tenets of the American Legion — service to others — and put it into practice.
“We can’t replace, we can’t fill the emptiness of lives that were taken too early, but we can honor them,” he said. Putting up flags and gathering is one way, he said. “I think another way is rededicating ourselves to service to others.”