A crowd assembled Saturday at Kilgore Veterans Monument at Harris Street Park to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and to remember the civilians, first responders and military service members who lost their lives in the initial attacks and in the two decades of war which followed.

“Those of us in our generation remember where we were when John. F. Kennedy was assassinated,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said. “I think, for the next generation, they’ll always remember what they were doing and what happened the morning of 9/11: the worry, the terror, the concern about what happens next, the sorrow for the families who lost people and the feelings of grief and terror.

“It was also a time when the United States rallied in a way I’ve never seen before,” he said. “We saw the flag more often than any time before or after, we saw prayer more often, we saw love of country, and it’s a shame it takes something like that to bring together our nation and restore our love for God and country.”

Vietnam combat veteran Skip Beal described his experience of that day when he was aboard a plane 30,000 feet above Atlanta. His plane was ordered to land at a nearby airport, and those aboard did not know what had happened until they saw news reports on televisions in the airport showing images of the World Trade Center towers in New York City collapsing.

“It just drained the emotions out of a lot of people. I looked at those buildings collapse and I thought it’s sad that man has to be that way,” Beal said.

“It was like Pearl Harbor all over again,” said Vietnam combat veteran John Edney. “Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11 twenty years ago? Do you remember what you were doing 20 years ago? It’s a history lesson that should be taught in our schools today just like Pearl Harbor is taught. It should never, ever, ever be forgotten.”

Also honored at the ceremony were the 13 U.S. military service members killed in late August when Taliban fighters and suicide bombers attacked an airport in Kabul amidst evacuation efforts as the U.S. withdraws from combat operations there after 20 years of war.

Beal said the U.S. did not find victory in Afghanistan and several other conflicts because the country does not honor God as it once did.

“There’s something wrong with America, and I’ll tell you what it is. We have forgotten our God,” Beal said. “We’re never going to win another war unless God becomes the centerpiece of America. We need to come back to God. We need a revival in our United States.”

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