Staff Sgt. Stephen Mercer of the 27th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron was 17 years old and attending high school in Denver when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred.
It was a day that cemented his resolve to join the military and become a firefighter.
“I try to take a step back every day and reflect,” Mercer said. “Things can be taken for granted and something can happen so quickly. People didn’t know this was going to happen and things changed lives forever.”
Mercer was among the 200 airmen, family members and selected members of the community who attended a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Sunday at Cannon Air Force Base. The ceremony, which started at 6:46 a.m. MDT, the same time the first plane crashed into north tower of the World Trade Center, featured a walking procession from the headquarters building to the fire department.
During the ceremony, speakers reminded the audience of not just the losses but the heroism and sacrifice that occurred that day and continues today.
Master Sgt. Elizabeth Staub of the 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron said the attacks not only enhanced her patriotism but reinforced her sense of duty.
“When I get called on to deploy I know that I’m going out there to do my part to help out my comrades to make the world a better place and rid them of the terrorists that are out there,” Staub said in her speech.
“It was unbelievable that something like this would happen on American soil,” said Staub, who was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming during the attacks.
During the ceremony, Todd Miller, 27th Special Operation Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, and Lt. Col. Daniel Guinan, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander, unveiled a piece of steel that was part of the wreckage of the Twin Towers.
Miller said he petitioned for the piece on behalf of the base two years ago. It will be displayed at the front door of the fire house and is the only one in New Mexico, according to Cannon public affairs.
“The intent was just to have something tangible, having like a living tribute to the event,” Miller said. “Just having it and being able to put your hands on it and say this is what happened back then, nobody will ever forget. For firefighters it’s pretty emotional.”
More than 340 New York city firefighters died during the aftermath of the attacks searching through rubble of the twin towers.
“Knowing that I was alive and was experiencing the same emotions as everybody during that day and actually having a piece of that steel here in the fire department is going to be something I can feel a part of that even though I wasn’t in new York,” Miller said.
In his speech, Cannon Commander Col. Albert Elton II said the ideology that precipitated the 9/11 attacks still exists and the men and women who serve at the 27th Special Operations Wing will continue to fight terrorism on the front lines.
“The nation needs us to take the time to remember why we serve and why we fight,” he said.