Along the Yellowstone: Thanking our heroes

Jaci Webb
Thursday, September 9, 2021
The 9/11 Memorial at the MSU Billings City College campus was constructed using a chunk of steel from the destroyed World Trade Center.

The 9/11 Memorial at the MSU Billings City College campus was constructed using a chunk of steel from the destroyed World Trade Center.

The other day I was walking with my dogs, eyes on the fluffy clouds overhead, and I took a

mighty step right onto wet leaves, sliding out of control, tugged by my two 80-pound mutts.

I was thinking about the way calamity sneaks up on us when we least expect it. We look for danger in dark alleys or in strange places, but not on a sunny morning just two blocks from home.

That’s the way it felt when terrorists crashed into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade

Center on a sunny September day back in 2001. The Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., was also hit.

Almost 3,000 lives were lost.

The whole world was shocked and horrified. I remember I dropped my two daughters off at

Broadwater Elementary School and then drove over to Senior High School where I taught English and journalism. It wasn’t long before there was a commotion in the hallway and everyone was shouting about terrorists. Students asked me to turn on our newly installed classroom television. The terrors we witnessed on the screen of exploding buildings and wounded victims had students in tears, and left all of us afraid for our country’s safety. I wanted to rush over to Broadwater School and grab my kids and take them home. It felt like nothing was safe anymore. I resisted the urge, but other parents did take their kids out of school. Some of my students were gone for a week.

We cried, we prayed, we hugged our loved ones. We were nicer to people we passed on the

street. Some Montanans went to New York to help. The one positive aspect of this national tragedy was that we were unified. In our grief, we supported one another. We expressed our love for our country and anger over what happened, but we were all on one side.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of what came to be simply referred to as 9/11, it’s a

good time to revisit not just the ugliness of the attack, but the fact that we pulled together as a nation and rose up. A 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony will be held on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Montana State University City College campus, 3803 Central Ave., between Laurel and Billings. The event will feature speakers and a flyover of first responder helicopters during the National Anthem, and a C-130 Air Force plane flyover at the end of the program. Participants are invited to walk through an assortment of first responder and military vehicles. This will be a good chance to thank these heroes.

The 9/11 Memorial on the City College campus centers around a 612-pound piece of steel from the destroyed World Trade Center. Volunteers and faculty at City College constructed the memorial in 2011, building a replica of the twin towers and providing space for reflection to remember the lives lost and the sacrifices made by firefighters and first responders who risked their lives during the 9/11 attack. Our firefighters and first responders risk their lives on a daily basis in our communities.

I was honored to be invited to volunteer at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony starting at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. The start time is significant because that was the time of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Please join me at this ceremony and celebrate how our communities came together in a time of need and remember how everyday heroes emerged then, and emerge again and again, to help others. I am still proud to be an American, and I want to thank all of our servicemen and women and veterans who have sacrificed for all of us to live in the land of the free.

In the coming weeks leading up to Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, I would like to profile some of our

veterans from Laurel, Park City, and Joliet. Please contact me with suggestions of veterans I can feature.

My email is, and my phone number at the Laurel Outlook is 628-4412.



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