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Norfolk Naval Shipyard Honors the Fallen in Patriot Day Ceremony

By Hannah Bondoc, Public Affairs Specialist | Sept. 11, 2020

On Sept. 11, 2001, the American public became all too familiar with the term “terrorist attack” while watching American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the Twin Towers at the World Trade center in New York City. These were not the only planes that would be hijacked that day, as American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon a little more than 30 minutes later. United Airlines Flight 93 was also intended to be used as an aerial bomb, but passengers and crew members were able to engage with the terrorists on board, and brought the plane down in Shanksville, Pa.

Armed forces, law enforcement and emergency personnel came out en masse to save as many lives as they could. Unfortunately after the dust settled, the body count would total 2,996 people and 6,000 injured. The country would never be the same as its people would have to learn to live without their loved ones the tragic attack took away, haunted by the nightmare memory it left behind.

Although the tragedy left our nation scarred, it is slowly healing. Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) held a ceremony today to honor the fallen and those heroes who did what they could that day, some of whom continue to serve.

Despite it being nearly two decades since the fateful day, the commanding officer, Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson ensured that the depth of loss has not been forgotten, but rather stands as one of the reasons why the shipyard puts in the amount of effort it does into its work. “Just as the generations before us forever remembered the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, there’s no event in our lifetimes that has haunted our national consciousness as that of Sept. 11,” Torkelson said. “As a shipyard, we proudly and urgently sent ships out fit to fight, helping to bring justice to those who committed the atrocious acts against our nation as well as those who harbored them.”

After the attacks, NNSY and naval operations in general have become bigger and better. Torkelson discussed how “Navy programs like the Fleet Response Plan and the One Shipyard Concept have allowed us to surge as needed and pool our resource management in ways we never would have thought possible in the pre-9/11 world.  Our collective might has allowed us to strike back hard at the roots of evil in the most remote areas of the world.  Even today, we’re reminded of the importance of these abilities with the mantra ‘One NAVSEA.’  That reminds us that we are bonded by our commitment, not just as a shipyard but as a naval enterprise, in serving a calling higher than ourselves.”

Torkelson also pointed out that the events of 9/11 helped to unite all Americans, which he thought is especially important given recent events across the country. “We’ve talked a lot in recent months about the importance of equality, across all areas of potential discrimination but especially race,” he said. “In a time of dissent and uncertainty across much of our nation, let us remember one of the starkest lessons of our past: regardless of the colors of our skin, we have all given lives in service to this country and a level playing field results in a more inclusive, and therefore, more impactful team.” 

Toward the end of his speech, Torkelson said, “We are a high-performing team bound together by our work, our service to the fleet, the Navy, and our country. Our shipyarders who have served our Navy and nation so well in the past two decades have exemplified what we all know in our hearts. Our oath in serving our nation requires each of us to make sacrifices to support our uniformed men and women who go into harm’s way.”

“That is why it is imperative that we accomplish our tasks safely, on time, within cost and with first-time quality.  Seeking to not just know—but to live—the values of Care, Ownership, Respect and Excellence, we build high-performing teams at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and provide superior quality and reliable delivery to our Navy and nation,” Torkelson concluded.