Air Force Maj. Elizabeth Ortiz said she was within a few weeks of turning 30 when the attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers and the Pentagon began on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ortiz, who was the main speaker at the Patriot Day ceremony held Thursday at Minot High School-Magic City Campus to mark the seventh anniversary of the attacks, said the world changed that day. At first she thought the news was part of a drill, since she was attending a training course in San Antonio, Texas. Then she realized that the images on screen were not part of a big screen movie. She worried about her best friend, who worked at the Pentagon.
"In an instant, turning 30 was the furthest thing from my mind," she said.
Andrea Johnson/MDN •
Minot High School-Magic City Campus members of the Air Force Junior ROTC get ready to raise the American flag during the Patriot Day ceremony Thursday morning.
In the last six years, Ortiz has been deployed three times, to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kyrgyzstan. That's three missed Christmases, months of sleeping in tents, of carrying a weapon at all times, of being on guard. She said 4,500 service members, including a number from North Dakota, have not come home at all.
The students gathered around the podium to hear her speak were in grade school when the Twin Towers fell. Ortiz said she can't imagine what it has been like for them growing up in a post-Sept. 11 world. She's glad that she had lived almost three decades before the fateful day.
Ortiz asked the students to remember the thousands of innocent civilians whose lives were taken seven years ago and to think of the service members who are on duty throughout the world.
Col. Mike Burt, senior aerospace science instructor for Minot High School's Junior ROTC program, told the students it is even more important to take time to remember the events of Sept. 11 as the years pass.
Members of the Junior ROTC raised an American flag, which Burt said had flown in battle over Afghanistan, during a flag raising ceremony.
At Minot State University, students and professors gathered at 8:46 a.m. Thursday, the time the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Two poems and a prayer, all calling for peace and harmony and an end to violence and war, were read during the ceremony. Ann Nicole Nelson Hall in MSU's Old Main is named in honor of a Stanley native who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. One of the poems read was written by her mother.
Two pine trees, symbolizing the Twin Towers, and a plaque reading, "In memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. We go forward with hope and peace" are located near Memorial Hall in memory of the Sept. 11 victims.