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20 years later, we'll still never forget

20 years later, we'll still never forget

Master Sgt. Tara Wichtowski, 914th Security Forces Squadron, shares her memories of the September 11 terrorist attacks during a remembrance ceremony at Niagara University on September 11, 2021. Wichtowski was part of search and rescue with the Army National Guard in New York City. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tate G. Pollock)

20 years later, we'll still never forget

Two-thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven garden flags decorate the lawn at Niagara University on September 11, 2021. Each flag stood for one life lost during the terrorist attacks of September 11, twenty years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Tate G. Pollock)

20 years later, we'll still never forget

Army ROTC Purple Battalion cadets salute an American Flag during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Niagara University on September 11, 2021. The ceremony was in tribute to the lives lost during the terrorist attacks twenty years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Tate G. Pollock)

20 years later, we'll still never forget

Army ROTC Purple Battalion cadets salute an American Flag during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Niagara University on September 11, 2021. The ceremony was in tribute to the lives lost during the terrorist attacks twenty years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Tate G. Pollock)

20 years later, we'll still never forget

Master Sgt. Tara Wichtowski, 914th Security Forces Squadron, addresses attendees during a remembrance ceremony at Niagara University on September 11, 2021. Wichtowski was part of search and rescue with the Army National Guard in New York City. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Tate G. Pollock)

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. --

Twenty years after the September 11th terrorist attacks, members of the Western New York community gathered in front of Niagara University to remember.

“The streets were covered with thick ash and the air was filled with smoke. It was an eerie feeling and one that will be planted in my mind as long as I live,” said Master Sgt Tara Wichtowski, 914th Security Forces Squadron commander's support staff. “I watched as firefighters marched in and out and I watched families drive in to have moments of silence as they felt the pain of the loss they had endured.”

A similar moment of silence was held during the ceremony at Niagara University.  Side by side, military, police, firefighters and civilians paused to reflect while just behind the podium waved 2,977 mini-American flags. One for each of the lives lost that day.

“One moment that really sits with me was at ground zero, when a young man walked towards me. I stopped him and informed him he could not enter the area for safety reasons,” recalled Wichtowski. “He stopped and started crying. I remember asking if he was ok and after a pause he said, ‘My best friend was a firefighter. He was off today. He called and told me he was headed here to help. My friend never came out of the building.’ All I could think to do was hug him.”

Wichtowski was only a year into her military career when these attacks shook the nation, but it is still something that she carries with her every day. 

“I will never forget. It’s something we say every year at this time, but for me that is a daily thought. I will never forget.”