AMC ceremony honors September 11 victims, heroes

Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — Watching 9/11 unfold as a youngster while watching TV with his mother in the bedroom of their home in New Jersey left an unforgettable impression on Shawn Davis, now an airman at Dover Air Force Base.

Airman Davis, who spoke at the fourth annual Sept. 11 Memorial Service outside of the DAFB’s Air Mobility Command Museum Sunday morning, recalled seeing those firefighters and first responders go into the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

That, to him, was bravery at its finest. It hit home especially for him because his father was doing construction work in New York City that fateful day and his family was unable to get in touch with him.

Everything eventually turned out OK for his father. Thousands of others weren’t so fortunate.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others as hijacked jetliners slammed into the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C. and another crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The images of those twin towers crumbling to the ground, a massive fireball coming out of the side of the Pentagon and the debris field left by a jetliner brought down by the courageous acts of its passengers in a remote field were haunting — yet unforgettable.

“Watching the heroes that day going through a literal living hell was devastating,” Airman Davis said. “They all knew what was expected of them as they went into those towers and they gave nothing less than the best service possible.

“As I watched this horror story unfold I thought to myself that one day I wanted to be a hero just like those men and women that put everything on the line that day.”

Airman Davis is a firefighter with the DAFB Eagle Fire Fighters and a volunteer fireman with the Little Creek Fire Department.

He also served as the keynote speaker at Sunday’s Sept. 11 Memorial Service that provided many spine-tingling moments.

A massive United States flag tethered between the ladder trucks of the Dover and Little Creek fire departments set the scene at the AMC Museum’s 9/11 memorial, which features two pieces of steel from World Trade Center tower one, a rock from the United Airlines Flight 93 crash site and a block from the damaged portion of the Pentagon.

The ceremony began with the DAFB Honor Guard’s arrival with two axes, two rifles and two flags before the National Anthem played.

Rev. Blake Bowers, of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association, gave the invocation prior to Airman Davis’ speech about the impact 9/11 had on his life.

There were then five bell strikes repeated four times in memory of those who died on 9/11, the Dover Police & Fire Pipes and Drums performed “Amazing Grace” and then many in the crowd waited their turn to approach the wreath and pay their respects.

Coleen Swezy, from Hamburg, N.J., said she felt compelled to come to the ceremony, especially considering that Airman Davis is her grandson.

“It was important for us to come,” she said. “We were actually driving to Marlton, N.J., for [my husband Rodney] to have his kidney stones blasted on 9/11, so we were driving down the New Jersey turnpike when it happened.

“My one granddaughter was just going to school for the first time that day and they were so young … and we felt it was important with everything going on with the flag these days. We just had to come.”

For Airman Davis, 9/11 was the day that shaped his life.

“As the years went on, that horrific day laid heavily on my mind,” he said. “It ultimately has had a huge impact on the career choices I have made today. I wanted to be a part of something that would protect this great nation from ever falling under attack like that again.

“That’s why I chose to wear this uniform and I’m sure the same can be said for many of us here [Sunday]. We all wear this uniform to prevent events like that from every occurring again. Becoming a fireman was my dream ever since that day 15 years ago.”

And now Airman Davis understands first-hand what those courageous actions that those first responders made in New York City on 9/11 were all about.

“People often wonder why it is that firefighters are always running into a burning building when everyone else is running out,” he said. “They answered that question on 9/11 by showing courage and selflessness.

“Those acts of murder were intended to tear our country apart, but we have proven those horrific terrorists wrong and have shown them how strong of a nation we are.”

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