Memories still remain vivid for those who are old enough to recall the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Rear Adm. Michael Bernacchi, commander of Submarine Group 10 at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, is among those called to duty that day.
He shared his memories of the attack during a ceremony at Kings Bay on Wednesday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the attack. Besides most of the sailors on base, emergency responders from Camden County were among those in the attendance.
Bernacchi, a 30-year Navy veteran, said he had just returned from a deployment as executive officer aboard the USS Santa Fe and was enjoying breakfast with his family when he got a phone call the day of the attacks.
The caller told Bernacchi to turn on his TV. When he asked which channel, he was told it doesn’t matter. He turned on the TV just before the second jet liner slammed into the World Trade Center.
“We knew this was no accident,” he said.
Bernacchi said he knew he would be part of the response to the attacks shortly after he turned on the TV.
“I gave my wife and kids a kiss, and we set sail,” he said.
He described the passengers on United Flight 93 as heroes who learned about the attacks in New York and Washington and said “no more.”
“They took control of that aircraft and prevented it from reaching its target,” he said.
He said people die twice — once upon their death and again when the last person who remembers them dies. The victims of the Sept. 11 attacks will never die that second death, he said.
“It is important to remember who lost their lives,” he said.
He praised the “brave Americans” who accepted the burden and privilege to serve their nation, and “run into danger while others run away.”
He credited the first responders for keeping military families safe at home while troops deploy across the world.
“It is because of you we feel safe,” he said. “You put yourselves in harm’s way. You keep our families safe while we are at sea.”
Bernacchi asked sailors to reflect on their service and why they train.
“Let Sept. 11 never be another day,” he said. “You may be called upon to save the world.”
Nowadays, the concerns of a terrorist attack are even greater, Bernacchi said.
“It’s a free and open society that scares our competition,” he said. “The events of Sept. 11 were intended to drive us apart. Instead, they made us closer.”