News: Kyrgyz president remembers 9/11 at Transit Center ceremony
Story by Master Sgt. Cynthia Dorfner
MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - Kyrgyz Republic President Roza Otunbayeva joined Larry Memmott, U.S. Embassy in Bishkek Charge d'Affaires, Col. James Jacobson, Transit Center at Manas director, and dignitaries from 14 other countries here in commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
"Today the Kyrgyz Republic, like the entire world, shares the sorrow with our friends, the American people, in connection with the loss of almost 3,000 people of different nationalities, different origins and religions," said Otunbayeva. "Citizens of 90 countries died with Americans [that day]. This tragedy consolidated the international community and brought [them] together even stronger in countering terrorism as a common enemy."
Otunbayeva spoke to the crowd of hundreds about the importance of the partnership between Kyrgyzstan and the United States.
"We consider the allocation of the [Transit Center] as an important contribution of the Kyrgyz Republic in common efforts of the global community in fighting against terrorism," the president said. "Because there is not a single country secured from new global threats and challenges, such as international terrorism and religious extremism."
The Transit Center, formerly known as Ganci Air Base, opened in December 2001. In the past 10 years, the name has changed, but the around-the-clock missions of aerial refueling, airlift, onward movement of troops, and strengthening the partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic remain.
"There is no doubt that the 10-year existence of the Transit Center considerably contributed in strengthening the security in Afghanistan and region as a whole," Otunbayeva said. "I can state with confidence that Kyrgyzstan of 2011 is much stronger than Kyrgyzstan of 2001, both in terms of state and in terms of people. Despite the fact there are still many challenges and threats in the future we have to overcome, we know that we are not alone and we are full of optimism."
The 60-minute ceremony started with the conclusion of a 24-hour, 153-mile remembrance run and included the Fireman's Prayer, and a Battlefield Cross Memorial - a tribute to fallen or missing soldiers, and a 21-gun salute followed by the playing of taps.
Memmott acknowledged those in uniform for their continued sacrifice and urged those gathered to continue to strengthen against a common enemy.
"It is fitting to mark the occasion here at the Transit Center at Manas International Airport, where we see that brave men and women from all walks of life and many countries continue to combat terrorism every day, often risking their own lives to protect us from these criminals," said Memmott. "I thank you for your bravery and your service."
Memmott then said while the events from a decade ago have changed the world, they have not had the effect the terrorists sought.
"While honoring the victims of 9/11, we also see how 9/11 shows that terrorism as a strategy is a failure," he said. "The terrorists did not achieve their objectives because, while terrorism continues, far from breaking the will of the global community, it strengthens our resolve and determination. We must use today as an opportunity to celebrate our capacity, and that of our friends and allies around the world, to come together to fight terrorism, to refuse to live in fear and to continue to strive to move our countries forward."
In thinking about the future, Memmott said we should remember the past - and a key relationship that was born from tragedy.
"Sept. 11 is a date that is deeply emotional to the American people, so we appreciate that the people of Kyrgyzstan have stood beside us ever since," Memmott said. "Shortly after that day, Kyrgyzstan agreed to allow the coalition to use its facilities here in support of its efforts to drive the terrorists from Afghanistan. The importance of our combined work to rid the region of terror has not changed. Our work to fight terrorists in Afghanistan remains tremendously relevant in the region and we are deeply appreciative of our partners in the region for their assistance."
Jacobson, who took command of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing in June, reflected on how much he's learned in the past decade.
"Today, we know America and the world have changed in the years following Sept. 11," he said. "In these 10 years, I have learned that America is a resilient country. In spite of all that befell our nation 10 years ago today, the American people did not waver. Just as previous generations overcame profound tests of will and adversity, this generation of Americans has done the same.
"In these 10 years I have learned that America's sons and daughters are truly amazing individuals. They were not drafted into military service, they are volunteers in the fight for freedom.
Most of those in uniform today in America's armed forces were not serving on Sept. 11, 2001. They joined in the days, weeks and years that followed. While we in America often tout our World War II generation as our 'greatest generation,' history will find a title befitting these incredible Americans and their decade-long sacrifice. I think the devotion of this generation, in some of the most extreme circumstances, will mark them as the 'patriotic generation,'" he added.
The colonel emphasized the partnership between the United States and Kyrgyzstan as critical to achieving success in the fight today.
"In these 10 years I have learned that our partners are critical to promoting and ensuring security and stability across the globe," Jacobson said. "I have learned that America has many friends in this struggle. And no nation has been more of a steadfast friend than Kyrgyzstan. As the international effort to defeat terrorism and bring stability to Afghanistan continues, Kyrgyzstan serves as a critical host to all soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from many nations who pass through this Transit Center on their way to Afghanistan or on their way home. I would like to express our sincerest thanks to the Kyrgyz government and the Kyrgyz people for their support to this international effort."
The Transit Center was originally named for Peter J. Ganci Jr., a career firefighter in the New York City Fire Department. On that tragic day in 2001, Ganci held the rank of chief of department, the highest ranking uniformed officer in the FDNY. Ganci was among the 343 New York City firefighters and paramedics killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Today, the Transit Center's all-ranks club and recreation center "Pete's Place" is named in Ganci's honor. Throughout the day, the Pete Ganci Heritage Hall featured a number of commemorative videos and displays, including an FDNY firefighter's helmet from 9/11.