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Twenty years after terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people on United States soil, veterans, first responders and others gathered on Main Street in Bozeman to honor the men and women who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the day’s fallout.

Under clear skies Saturday, members of American Legion Post 14, law enforcement officers, firefighters and veterans lined a sidewalk in downtown Bozeman for the Legion’s 11th annual Patriot Day and 9/11 Services.

At 9:03 a.m. sharp — the exact time when Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center — four planes flew over downtown Bozeman. It was perfect timing, according to Post 14 Commander Len Albright.

Speakers at Saturday’s ceremony included Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer, Bozeman Fire Chief Josh Waldo, Bozeman Police Department Chief Jim Veltkamp and Montana State Auditor Troy Downing.

“Today we want to honor and remember not only those first responders, but also those who have died in the aftermath, as well as our great servicemen and women,” said Randy Jones, chaplain for the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

Jones led a prayer, and the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance together. People joined in as Vietnam veteran George Morales sang “God Bless America.”

Morales said young people won’t remember the bold, patriotic acts of the people who fought and died for the United States if they aren’t educated on the history of Sept. 11.

“I just want you to remember, it takes a supernatural power for a firefighter or anybody who is a first responder to run into a fire or run into a situation,” he said. “For the most part, we want to take cover.”

That’s exactly what hundreds did on Sept. 11 2001, after al-Qaeda militants hijacked four commercial airliners, then flew them into U.S. landmarks.

Two of the planes crashed into the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center and one crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The crews and passengers aboard all three planes died. So did 125 people at the Pentagon.

The passengers aboard the fourth plane — United Flight 93 — resisted the hijacking. The plane crashed into a field around Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all people on board.

First responders rushed to rescue thousands who were trapped in the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, just before the towers collapsed. Over 2,600 people, including hundreds of firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders, died in the World Trade Center that day.

Jones said the heroic efforts of first responders and citizens saved many who were in peril that day, but those heroes have been adversely affected following the attacks.

First responders and Ground Zero workers continue to come down with cancers and other illnesses, and thousands of American servicemen and women have died in the war on terror, he said.

“While I applaud all of us for keeping our promise to never forget what happened 20 years ago, I encourage you to remember it’s not over,” Waldo said. “This still goes on every day when we have brave men and women on foreign land protecting our freedoms.”

Post 14 members raised 13 American flags in honor of the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in an August attack on the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.

The attack came as U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year occupation sparked by the Sept. 11 events. The Taliban is now back in control of the country.

Downing, who joined the U.S. Air Force after the Sept. 11 attacks, said that while it may be difficult for many service members to process what happened in Afghanistan, the work they did there was meaningful.

“We kept America safe. We were sent there for a job and we did it,” he said. “I believe the biggest reason we haven’t seen another attack like September 11 was because you were there, keeping our enemies on the run.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines wasn’t able to make it to Saturday’s ceremony, but a member of his staff read aloud a statement on his behalf.Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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