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Chuck Zeitler was a command duty Navy officer stationed in Washington state in 2001. On Sept. 11 that year, he had a training that began at 5:30 a.m.

At five minutes to 6, all the training stopped.

The crew watched the national news in horror as reports streamed in of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. They started to pray.

Then, the second plane hit.

“We went from a peacetime Navy to a wartime Navy in half a second,” he said between tears, 18 years later, on the steps of the Linn County Courthouse under an American flag draped from the ladders of fire trucks from across the mid-valley.

At 8:46 a.m. on Wednesday, the courthouse lawn was packed with people who had come to pay tribute to the victims of September 11, 2001. Dave Solomon of the Albany American Legion organized the event with the help of local sponsors.

Solomon said Wednesday that he worries that the nation is forgetting the terrorist attacks. A third hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon. A fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania as passengers and crew members fought to regain control.

“On September 11, 2001, terrorists robbed America of more than 2,000 lives,” he told the crowd. “Quite simply, 9/11 wounded our nation in a way it hadn’t known since the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Just beyond the crowd, a wagon full of babies from the Children’s Place Daycare in Albany ranging in age from 6 months to 3 years old, sat waving flags. Born more than a decade after the attack, they had no context for why the men at the podium struggled through speeches and found their words strangled by tears.

Solomon said it was vital that schools teach children about the events of Sept. 11.

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“This is the first year,” he said, “that kids can come to this memorial and be excused from class.”

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Harlan said parents have always been able to sign their children out of school for community events, but the American Legion shared details of Wednesday's event with the district, which it then passed onto the schools. 

David Dominy of the Lebanon Police Department also said it was important to remember the day each year and joined with his father George and brother Cliff to sing two songs at Wednesday’s memorial.

“We go where we’re called,” he said. “This is too important to forget.”

Mayor Sharon Konopa and various other officials were also present Wednesday to hear the names of those lost in the attack. Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, but those gathered on the courthouse lawn on Wednesday heard just a fraction.

“I chose those names because those are the funerals I attended,” Solomon said.

Emergency service workers from Albany, Jefferson, Lebanon, Philomath, Sweet Home and Tangent attended Wednesday's event, hosted by American Legion Post 10.

"It has been 18 years since this terrifying event where 2,977 were killed," a statement from the Legion post read. "20 people were pulled out alive from beneath the rubble. Victims were aged from 2 to 85 years of age and included a number of firefighters, police officers and EMS paramedics. We must never forget the victims and their families on this day."

Memorials were also held at the Benton County Courthouse in Corvallis and in the circle of flags at the Boulder Falls Center in Lebanon. 

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