Gov. Blunt commemorates a solemn anniversary
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Gov. Blunt commemorates a solemn anniversary

Date: September 11, 2006
By: Lucie Wolken
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -

Fire engine sirens rang out in the Jefferson City, slightly drowning out Corporal John Lueckenhoff as he sang the National Anthem to a crowd gathered before the steps of the Capitol building Monday to honor those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. 

The sirens were an eerie addition to an audience filled with Missouri firefighters honoring their deceased fellow servicemen.

"Among the fatalities were 343 New York City Fire Department fire fighters, 23 New York City Police Dept. officers, and 37 court authority police officers," said Gov. Matt Blunt, keynote speaker for the commemoration event.  "Each of those victims was a father, a mother, a son, or a daughter, an the vast majority were Americans."

Blunt used the opportunity not only to extend his gratitude and condolences to families affected by the tragedy, but also to reaffirm America's role in the global war on terror.  He thanked not only the men and women in uniform, members of the intelligence committee, first responders, the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. of Defense but also thanked the leadership of President Bush. 

"They deserve our gratitude for having responded to the threats we face by treating them as what they are," said Blunt.  "Battles in a war over which ideology will claim the twenty-first century."  

State Public Safety Department Director Mark James listed the advancements in Missouri homeland security in the changed post-9/11 landscape. 

"While our enemies thought they could cripple our nation, they instead awoke the sleeping giant that another enemy in another time came to recognize and regret," said James.

The end result 5 years later, he asserted, was a nation better prepared to protect the safety of Americans.  James credited Blunt's leadership for the developments made to advance the safety of Missourians.  The latest advancements James cited have occurred in the past 18 months and include the establishment of the Missouri Information Analysis Center, the partnering of with Missouri police chiefs and sheriffs in distributing digital fingerprint systems and the partnering of fire departments to help establish incident management support teams to help local incident commanders.

Major General Kind Sidwell of the Missouri National Guard spoke on the evolution of the National Guards role in national security from a strategic reserve force to an operational force . 

"The National Guard is not just waiting in the wings in case the country goes to war, but rather is already an integral part of the military's operational force deployed around the world," said Sidwell.  "Today, the National Guard has over 70,000 guard members serving or heading overseas  in support of the global war on terrorism."

The hopeful tone set by stories of accomplishment shifted as Mike Shultz of the Jefferson City Fire Dept. played a mournful "Amazing Grace" through bagpipes. 

"America does not want to forget about what happened, never will," said State Fire Marshall Randy Cole.  "It's a tribute to those that gave their life [...] Words can not speak enough to the gratitude you have for emergency responders."

Sidwell ended his speech with a quote by Ronald Regan, "I don't know all the national anthems of the world, but I do know this.  The only anthem of those I do know that ends with a question is ours.  And may it every be thus: Does the banner still wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?" 

Sidwell offered his own emotional response, "Yes it does.  And we are going to see that it continues to wave over that kind of country."