The Montana Highway Patrol and state elected officials hosted members of the public in the Capitol Rotunda Sunday morning to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., encouraged people to "thank, pray for and support those who are willing to run in when the rest of us our running out. They are the first responders. They are the law enforcement. ... They're there holding the front line away from your family."
Members of the Montana Highway Patrol Honor Guard stood at attention in front of the U.S. flag, saluting and kneeling in succession to 21 bell rings, followed by a somber rendition of taps by the group's trumpeter that echoed in the dome.
"To this day, I can still see images of death and destruction," Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. "But the way our nation came together in the days and weeks following was also remarkable."
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Knudsen told those in attendance to "never forget" the sacrifices made. He noted how the country seemed to unify in the aftermath and called for a renewed unity.
"I pray it does not take another tragedy like the one we experienced 21 years ago for them to experience the same unity that we did that day," he said.
Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Brent Colbert in a speech to the crowd thanked "first responders and veterans for their sacrifice and for their commitment to their jobs and their duties."
Helena Fire Chief Jon Campbell said on this time every year, his thoughts are often with the loved ones of those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Campbell said the lasting effects of that infamous day "cut deepest in those who continue to experience the absence and sorrow."
On Sept. 11, 2001, airline hijackings and suicide attacks were committed by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda against targets in the United States that included the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon. A hijacked airliner crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers fought with terrorists to retake the plane.
Some 2,996 people died. It remains the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Elsewhere in town, a Heroes of Helena event was held Sunday at the Albertsons store on North Montana Avenue in which fire trucks, law enforcement vehicles, emergency vehicles and first responder vehicles were on display. It included a color guard, demonstrations and food. First responders and other emergency personnel attended as well.
Eric Dowell, manager of Safeway and event organizer, said the event was put on as a salute to the heroes of 9/11 and as an opportunity for the public to come down and "shake the hand of a hero of Helena." He said the event was held at the Albertsons on North Montana Avenue because the parking lot is bigger than the Safeway store. He said several hundred people attended throughout the day.
Rosendale offered comments at the event as well as Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester sent remarks, Dowell said.
And Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton posted Sunday on Facebook that he, Sgt. Bob Kinyon, and Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Kevin Arnold recently rode into Gates Park, Bob Marshall Wilderness, to raise a flag in honor of those who lost their lives or responded on 9/11. The flag was flown at the state Capitol in Helena especially for this tribute and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the proclamation on July 7.
"We thank you for what you did, and we will do our best to never forget," Dutton said.
Staff Writer Phil Drake contributed to this story.