On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Dave Sellers was sitting at home with the television on mute. When he looked over at the screen, he thought that the footage of the World Trade Center falling was the special effects in a badly-made movie.
"Will these horror movies never end?" Sellers remembers thinking.
Later that day, however, Sellers ran into the Pentagon when everyone else was running out. Sellers is a member of Virginia Task Force 1, an international urban search and rescue team sponsored by the Fairfax County Fire Department, and on Sept. 11 it received the call to go into the Pentagon after the third plane crashed there.
"You never think you’re going to have a call quite that big," said Sellers. "I remember thinking it was surreal."
Sellers shared his story with Mayor M. Jane Seeman; Del. Steve Shannon (D-35); Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At-large); Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill); Vienna Councilmembers Laurie G. Cole, Mike Polychrones and Maud Robinson; American Legion members, and Vienna residents Sunday, Sept. 11 in a remembrance ceremony on the Freeman House lawn. Held by American Legion Post 180, the ceremony has taken place since the first anniversary of Sept. 11 in 2002.
Sellers stressed the importance of working together to respond to crises, a message made stronger two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. "I believe my creator put so many of us here on the planet so we can catch each other when we fall," he said.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was a "stark reminder" of the importance of being prepared for emergencies, said Connolly.
"The local government will always be the first responder," he said.
"Everyone knows somebody … who was directly affected by 9-11," said Shannon. He described a Virginia state trooper he knew who ran into the Pentagon and who says he can still taste plane fuel every time he swallows.
It is important not to forget what happened that day, said former American Legion Post 180 commander Joyce Miller.
"Not that any of this is ever easy, remembering it," said Miller, who served from 1972-76 in the Air Defense Artillery branch of the U.S. Army. "It is important to me, as a former sergeant in the Army, that we don't forget what they did on our homeland. Too many people have forgotten."
"For family members who lost a loved one, they will always remember," Shannon said.
"We many times fall into a sense of complacency," said Vienna Police Chief Robert Carlisle, ranking Sept. 11, 2001 among such historical events as Pearl Harbor and World War II. "In living, people tend to forget important events like that and what they mean to the country and shape the freedom that we have. It is important that we don’t forget 9-11 and that we don’t forget the kind of sacrifices that were made that day."
"It’s very, very important to keep certainty going and not lose sight of what it was really all about, and what can happen," said Seeman.
"To see those buildings coming down, to see the place the plane crashed into," said Carlisle. "It really is heartbreaking and that is why it is all the more important not to forget."
Ceremonies such as the one on Sunday help to "to keep [the event] live … and keep it strong," said Miller.
Just after she heard about Hurricane Katrina, Seeman said she contacted town manager John Schoeberlein and made sure that Vienna was prepared in case of a natural disaster such as the one that hit the Gulf Coast.
"Right after (Sept. 11, 2001), we had that feeling, and we need to keep that feeling," said Seeman. "You don’t want time to dim it."
In events such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or Hurricane Katrina, people must also not forget their responsibility to each other, said Connolly.
"In a big place like Fairfax County, it is important to remember that we are a community. We’re made up of small communities, some very cohesive like Vienna," he said. "We see ourselves in smaller clusters, but we are a community, and we come together as a community in times of need."
"It is the courage and strength of unity that truly sets us apart and makes us the nation we are," said Sellers.