The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, drastically changed the fabric of American culture, as millions watched in horror as the once majestic Twin Towers became piles of dirt and rubble. The images of that day have been seared into Americans’ brains, and have propelled many to action, several of which were recently honored for their valiant service.
Military personnel, police officers, artists and the Utah community came together on Oct. 7 and 21 at the new “UT6 and All” memorial in Salt Lake City to honor the six servicemen from Utah who lost their lives following the 9/11 attacks.
Lance Cpl. Carlos A. Aragon was one of those honored. Aragon was killed in 2010 by an improvised explosive device while on active duty in Afghanistan. His family said he was inspired to serve by the tragic events of 9/11.
Brad Halliday, Aragon’s father, reflected on the day he learned his son had been killed.
“Three years ago on March 1, we got that knock on the door from the Marine Corps officers and sergeants that were informing us,” Halliday said. “The worst thing you want to hear is, ‘Sir, I regret to inform you,’ and then they tell you. Your whole life comes to an end right there. It just closes down.”
The “UT6 and All” memorial is made from a stone taken from the World Trade Center’s wreckage, and is just one part of an 11-piece project by Florida-based artist Sandra Priest. The stone was once part of a slurry wall that stood seven stories below the World Trade Center, and helped keep the Hudson River at bay. After Sept. 11, a portion of the wall was removed, divided into 11 pieces and transported to Priest’s studio.
“(The pieces) were moved with the utmost respect and care,” said Dept. Chief Tom Augustus of Provo Fire and Rescue. “The flag-draped pieces were met with an honor guard of the United States Marine Corps. She worked to create something that all Americans can embrace as we continue to heal our country.”
The “UT6 and All” memorial is located at the Fort Douglas Military Museum and was dedicated on Monday, Oct. 21.
“I’m extremely proud to see my son’s name included with this (memorial),” Halliday said. “It has been three years now, but still, if I hadn’t have been at attention, it would’ve been harder to bite back the tears. I had to draw on that old military composure.”
Many have come to admire the memorial and pay their respects to those who have sacrificed their lives since 9/11, ultimately reliving their own memories of that day.
Tia Pennerman, a BYU student currently student-teaching at Independence High, remembered the events of 9/11 quite vividly, despite the fact that she wasn’t even on American soil.
“I was back home in the Bahamas, watching ‘Regis and Kelly Live,’ and it was interrupted for this breaking news,” Pennerman said. “I actually saw the second plane crash into the tower, so it was in real-time for me.”
Pennerman said she appreciated the opportunity she had to see the “UT6 and All” memorial.
“It was a great opportunity to come and just see the proud Americans honor those who passed away and show respect and dignity to those who gave their lives,” Pennerman said. “And so for me, being from a different country, I felt that pride as well for America as a country and for those who have passed.”
Gina Solis, an English teacher at Independence High, took her class to the memorial after discussing 9/11 in class.
“We talked about 9/11 in class a few weeks ago,” Solis said. “When this opportunity came up, we thought it would be nice to bring (the discussion) home. Most of our students were only five when it happened, so to make it a little more real to remind them of what really happened, we thought this was a good opportunity.”
The memorial is to serve as a reminder of the events that occurred on 9/11. It was not only the loss that was remembered, but the courage and heroism of individuals such as Aragon that took place on that day and in the months and years that followed.
“The thing that I would want to remind most Americans is, don’t give away your liberty cheap,” Halliday said. “People have died for it, good people, good men, good women. If you want to give up your rights, your First Amendment, Second Amendment rights and think it’s no big deal, well, my son died for that. He didn’t die for entitlements. He died to protect your liberty. So I would just say to Americans: Value your liberty; value your right to vote; value these things and participate; make it worthwhile. Don’t waste that sacrifice.”