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America’s AOC marks 20th anniversary of 9/11 with remembrance ceremony

  • Published
  • 601st Air Operations Center

The events of September 11, 2001 are forever etched in the minds of survivors and the countless other American’s who bared witness to the terrorist attacks against America.

The 601st Air Operations Center, also referred to as America’s AOC, held a commemorative ceremony at the 9/11 memorial in remembrance of those who perished on that tragic day and as affirmation of commitment to defend our homeland against terroristic threats on September 10, 2021.  The ceremony was presided over by Col. Gregory Krane, 601st AOC commander.

“20 years ago four U.S. commercial airliners were hijacked by 19 terrorists and murdered 2,977 innocent people in New York City, the Pentagon, and at the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash site,” said Krane. “Since 9/11, nearly 7,000 service members have paid the ultimate sacrifice and 50,000 others live with disabilities sustained while fighting for our freedom.”

In front of America’s AOC Operations Center lies a 9/11 memorial that features twisted steel from the floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower Two. There is scorched limestone from the damaged face of the Pentagon and chiseled segments of flagstone from a Pennsylvania quarry.  These remnants construct the melancholy alchemy that serves as a reminder that drives the warfighters at America’s AOC. 

Former 1st Air Force Public Affairs Officer, retired Lt. Col. Don Arias, was the guest speaker for the ceremony and addressed members of the AOC and 1st Air Force.

“Today, as we remember those lost and those who served and sacrificed for our country, the rest of us need to remember your service by being worthy of that sacrifice,” said Arias. “343 firefighters and 60 police officers perished at the World Trade Center. One business alone lost more than 700 employees, leaving at least 50 pregnant widows. These were Americans worth fighting for.”

As Amazing Grace played in the background, a wreath was placed at the 9/11 memorial as a symbol of honor and respect for the 2,977 men, women, children, and first responders who tragically lost their lives on that fateful day.

“We all remember where we were when we heard the terrible news. I was here at Tyndall Air Force base, as the chief of public affairs for 1st Air Force participating in a NORAD exercise,” said Arias. “I called Adam [Arias’ younger brother who worked in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center] in his office and shared, what I later realized would be our final conversation. My brother was killed when Tower 2 of the World Trade Center collapsed. He was in the streets assisting firemen and the injured. Just like all of you, my brother Adam thought his fellow Americans were worth fighting for. He fought for them until Tower 2 buried him…and thousands of others.”

In response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 Operation Noble Eagle mission began. In the two decades since, the ONE Homeland defense mission has flown more than 61,000 sorties, and has responded to more than 2,350 tracks of interest.

Prior to 9/11, the North American Aerospace Defense Command primarily focused on external threats outside North America.  Since, NORAD employs network space-based, aerial and ground based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers, and fighter aircraft controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to deter, detect and defend against aerial threats that originate outside or within North American airspace.

“So why is 9/11 significant, that answer is different for each and everyone one of you, but I believe we can agree that we use this day as a reminder of our resolve over the last 20 years,” said Krane. “It is a reminder that the freedoms we are guaranteed under our Constitution come at a cost, and there is evil in this world that wishes nothing more than to destroy our precious freedom and way of life.”

The 601st AOC is responsible for detecting, deterring, defending and if necessary, defeating any aviation threat to the citizens of the continental United States and to U.S. critical infrastructure. The Florida Air National Guard’s 101st Air and Space Operations group provides the primary manning for the 601st AOC to fulfill its critical homeland defense mission.