SILVERHILL — Tyler York was in the fourth grade when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
“As a 10-year-old boy, there was much I didn’t understand about what was going on at the time,” he said.
Just days after the attacks, he said, he was asked to write a poem about a subject of his choice. He chose to write about that day.
York read the poem, titled “A Billion Tears,” during a remembrance service held Saturday at the Silverhill Veterans Memorial to honor and remember those who lost their lives, marking the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
After graduating from RHS in 2010, York, along with his two best friends and classmates, Jeremy Smith and Justin Lidgard, signed up to serve in the Army. All three served in Afghanistan. All three served as guest speakers for Saturday’s service hosted by the Silverhill Veterans Memorial Organization.
York and Smith served in the same unit together. After serving one tour of duty, York returned home while Smith would go on to serve two more tours in Afghanistan.
“Just love your family, love your friends and love your neighbors,” Smith said. “There’s bad things that happen but we can love each other because the ones that fell, the ones that lost their lives on 9/11, they don’t get to do that anymore so be sure and don’t take it for granted.”
Lidgard is a Purple Heart recipient. He took an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade round, on his first tour in Afghanistan, then went back for another tour in 2015-16 with special operations.
“Until then I didn’t realize the affects, how my years in the Army would change the rest of my life,” he said.
Years after his return from Afghanistan, Lidgard was diagnosed with PTSD.
“Just for everybody else who has PTSD or anything like that or know anybody just keep them close,” Lidgard said. “They might not want to talk to you but just send them a text every now and then and say, ‘hey what are you up to.’ If they’re sitting in their house invite them out somewhere. Just let them know that you’re there at all times and that you’re thinking of them.”
For York, he said, when asked if it was worth it, he reminds himself of several truths.
“For 20 years we afforded a freedom for Afghan women and children that otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to experience those freedoms, so much so that they’re leaving their country by the thousands to pursue the same freedoms we have as Americans,” he said. “And for 20 years we prevented similar attacks from happening that could have been launched out of Afghanistan. And for 20 years we demonstrated the American’s drive and determination to thwart terrorism. Many may ask did our Marines, Soldiers, Airmen die in vain. I say absolutely not. Those service members that paid it all served honorably for something greater than themselves and that’s how I will remember them. There was a time and a place that their sacrifice was paid. It mattered then, it matters today, and it will matter tomorrow.”
Silverhill Mayor Jared Lyles opened Saturday’s ceremony with a moment of silence as the events surrounding that day 20 years ago were closing.
Lyles said Saturday’s event was different from other events such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day held at the town’s Veterans Memorial.
“I never served in the military, so while I have an appreciation as a citizen, on days like that I’ve never been where veterans have been,” he said. “The difference with today is that all of us as a country woke up this morning 20 years ago and experienced this together.”
While some experienced the events in person, he said, most Americans experienced the day by being glued to the television set, watching the events of the day unfold from the uncertainly of whether it was an accident when the first plane hit, to the uncertainty of what was going to come next as the events began to unfold.
“We also had an opportunity 20 years ago to see what this country and its heroes were capable of on that day,” he said. “We saw our first responders, our firefighters, our police, our EMS and our military run into those buildings to save people.
“I don’t only want to remember Sept. 11. I think what’s very important about this day is remembering Sept. 12 when we all woke up and were unified as a country, proud of where we live and who our people were and we rallied together. So, if we honor those people today I also want to honor the country we became in the days following.”
A flag raising was presented by the U.S. Armed Forces Honor Guard of Baldwin County, who also presented a 21-gun salute, TAPS, and a flag-folding ceremony, which was placed by a wreath to commemorate the 13 soldiers who were killed on Thursday, Aug. 26 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The wreath was placed by Veterans Organization members Pat and Pat Burke, while names of the soldiers were called out by organization vice president Danny Murphy while Joel Sterling rang a bell to honor each name. One final bell toll was presented to honor all of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and all of those who have lost their lives over the last 20 years.
The Rev. Jesse Adams with the Silverhill Covenant Church and the Rev. Jason Rothe with the First Baptist Church of Silverhill also presented prayers and comments of where they were on that day with Frankie Kucera presenting closing comments.
“Two phrases I remember from that day are ‘Let’s roll,’ by those that crashed the plane in Pennsylvania that was meant for the White House, and ‘Never forget Sept. 11, 2001,’ and that is what we are doing today,” he said.