Story and photos by Carol Montana
MONTICELLO, NY (September 14, 2014) – On Thursday, September 11, 2014, the Monticello Fire Department (MFD) paid tribute to the memory of the fallen of the September 11m 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.
The event included the salute to the American flag led by a local boy scout troop, the Star Spangled Banner sung by Mobilemedic owner and paramedic Albee Bockman, and a keynote speech by Bold Gold Media Group owner Vince Benedetto. The ceremony, which also included a wreath presentation and a photo of the twin towers, was broadcast live by Thunder 102, a Bold Gold Media station.
The members of the MFD stood at “parade rest” during the ceremony, as Alan Kesten introduced Benedetto, who said that he’d had “the occasion to speak in front of many groups for a variety of topics over the years, but I can honestly say that I have never been so touched and so honored than to be here with you today.”
Benedetto shared his experiences with the Air Force OSI (Office of Special Investigations), and the time leading up to and during the events of September 11th. “I’ve also never spoken publicly about my thoughts and feelings related to the significance of this day 13 years ago. And to be able to share some of those memories and perspectives with you is a true blessing.”
“… There’s a misconception out there that prior to the attacks of September 11th that there was little or no warning that an attack was likely. Far from it… shortly after arriving in Europe our work increasingly became focused around the possibility that Al Qaida was likely to attempt a spectacular attack in the near future. While the specifics were not there, the M.O. of this group, prior to an attempted attack was indicating that something was in the works. Agents were tasked to attempt to get the specifics, and based on the information in hand, most analysts had assessed that there was a high likelihood of an attempted attack coming soon at either a diplomatic post or a military base overseas.
“As a result military bases, particularly those oversees, had all moved to heightened states of alert… and around September 7th of 2001, I traveled from my base in Italy to our United States Air Forces in Europe Command HQs, often called USAFE, located at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. I was there to assist in helping to analyze our force protection measures.
“And then a moment that I will never forget happened… In Germany it was mid-afternoon at the time. I walked out of a USAFE conference room where we had been working…
“I know you know how personal this must have felt… in my line of work, we’re not supposed to let this happen… so my agency and the CI community of course took this very hard… we were angry. We wanted the gloves to come off, like we had been wanting for a long time, so that we could go after these guys everywhere they were. Up until now this had been mostly a law enforcement and investigative fight… for every bad guy agents took off the streets, by the time we navigated through the global bureaucracy, it seemed like three more popped up! But we would get our chance before too long.”
Benedetto spoke then about the “the out-pouring of support around the globe,” which “led to unprecedented cooperation among law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies….
“There’s a John F. Kennedy quote etched in granite right near his gravesite in Arlington Cemetery…taken from his Inaugural address: ‘In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger… I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it.’ And that’s true… as evidenced by those of you hear today… Our nation has always paid a high price for freedom, but it’s one we were always willing to pay… and when the moment came “we the people…” have always risen to the occasion. …
“I want to say this… specifically to you as Firefighters. When I stood in the United States Air Forces Command Center in Europe, and I saw the firefighters running into those buildings… I want you to know that right there, you inspired all of us in the Armed Forces… And when those buildings fell, and we knew so many of those brave souls were in there… you steeled our resolve to do whatever it would take to fight back and go after those who dared to attack our homeland like that. And every day thereafter, when fellow airmen and soldiers and I took the fight to these cowards, wherever on the planet they were hiding, your bravery, and what you stood for and continue to stand for, is what so often sustained us!
“… You know that danger is always out there, and regardless, you have accepted a life where you are willing and ready to rush into the flames to protect your neighbors, your community, and your countrymen.
“I don’t know that there will ever be a day more etched in my memory than September 11 of 2001. I do know that my memories of that day are not dominated by terror or destruction… Because of people like you, and your example, and that of my fellow soldiers… my memories are of courage, hope and resilience. And that example set by the firemen and all the emergency responders, remains one of the greatest displays of character and virtue ever seen on the face of this earth… Having traveled much of the world, I firmly believe that no country could have responded the way we did… And because of technology, because of radio and television … we all got to see and hear the greatest of courage on display. …
“…that is why today we pay respect to those we lost and honor their memory… but we celebrate their lives… and we celebrate the rising out of the ashes of that day of our country and this State. And on behalf of my fellow members of the Armed Forces, and on behalf of this wonderful community, I want to thank you for setting that example of service…and always being ready… not just on 11 September…today, tomorrow, and always. …”