FORT DRUM — Retired Capt. Robert W. Tennies spent two days at Ground Zero in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center 18 years ago.

Capt. Tennies, now 50 and now retired, was the only member of the Fort Drum Fire Department who went to New York City to join first responders and work on the pile at Ground Zero.

On Wednesday, Capt. Tennies was among about 200 soldiers and civilian employees who gathered to commemorate the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks.

“It seems like yesterday that it happened,” he said after the 15-minute ceremony.

In the years since, the retired captain has spoke eight times at the ceremonies, each time remembering those who died that day and remembering the importance of reflecting on what happened.

He recalled how the first two planes struck the World Trade Center’s twin towers at 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. on that otherwise sunny summer day, soon followed by the Pentagon being attacked at 9:37 a.m.

Twenty-six minutes later, 40 people aboard Flight 93 died after passengers mounted an attempt to retake their hijacked plane near Shanksville, Pa., he recalled.

A bell rang on Wednesday morning precisely at the same moment the first plane changed the country forever.

Members of the Fort Drum military police salute on Wednesday during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at Fort Drum. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

While the crowd stood in silence on Wednesday morning, a wreath was laid at the Sept. 11 monument in front of Clark Hall, where exhibits are on display about what happened that day.

Eighteen years ago, Capt. Tennies, then 32, was in a training class when the news came about the attacks. He and his colleagues joined the country in watching the suicide attacks on television.

That day, he left for Ground Zero. He remembered the stillness, and the dust and dirt at the site.

“It was like that Alan Jackson song ‘Where Were You When the World Went Silent,’“ he said in describing the scene.

Retired captain with the Fort Drum fire department Robert Tennies speaks with reporters on Wednesday after a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at Fort Drum. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, commander of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, was in a C-17 military transport aircraft during a global counterterrorism training exercise in Bosnia when the World Trade Center was hit.

Initially, he thought it was a training exercise.

Immediately, he was sent back to Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. as the Army started planning how to fight terrorism, he recalled.

It’s important “to pause and reflect” on the anniversary of Sept. 11 and how “the country came to together for a common cause,” he said.

Specialist Imani M. Herring, 21, who’s from Fayetteville, is too young to remember that day.

But she, too, said she knows the importance of people coming together that day to work for and with each other.

Here, an in-camera double exposure shows firefighters of the Fort Drum fire department saluting with an American flag layered over top on Wednesday during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at Fort Drum. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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