Alaska National Guard remembers 20th anniversary of 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 8:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The horrors of September 11, 2001, are something most Americans will never forget. Master Sergeant Melissa Branch of the Alaska Army National Guard won’t forget them either.

She was at the Pentagon that morning while she served with the Marine Corps at the time. The attack on the Pentagon killed 125 military and civilian employees on the ground.

“As we were leaving health services, a low flying plane flew over the building, making the room feel like Alaska’s November 2018 earthquake,” Branch said.

Branch worked as a chaplain’s assistant for the 14th Chaplain of the Marine Corps at the time and escorted her new boss, Chaplain Diana Meehan, around the building when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into it.

“To see a wall of gray smoke coming from the Pentagon with the smell of jet fumes and death,” Branch said. “We walked the parking lot outside the complex for hours providing ministry and presence.”

Branch shared that memory as part of the Alaska National Guard’s 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at the guard’s armory.

“It seems a lifetime ago,” said Alaska National Guard Command Chaplain Col. Ted McGovern. “For some in attendance today, those 20 years have been the span of your life.”

The program also paid special attention to 8:46 a.m. when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, 9:03 a.m. as United Airlines flight 175 struck the South Tower, and when United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania as passengers fought with hijackers for control of the aircraft.

The ceremony also honored Alaska National Guard troops who made the ultimate sacrifice during the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan that followed 9/11. Those who served with them reflected on how those service members have something in common.

“Service, devotion to duty, empathy, affection, and commitment,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Don, the director of Joint Staff for the Alaska National Guard.

The guard said it held the ceremony on Sept. 10 this year so the troops could have off the following day to reflect on the last 20 years, and spend time with their families.

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