Never forget: Army veteran remembers 9/11 rescue efforts at annual Appomattox ceremony

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APPOMATTOX, Va. (WDBJ7)-- A crowd gathered outside the Appomattox Court House early Wednesday morning with one goal: to never forget.

Sgt. Ronald Krauklis was a military police officer stationed at Fort Belvoir in Northern Va. on Sept. 11, 2001. He responded to the Pentagon less than an hour after the deadly terrorist attack.

“At about this very moment 18 years ago, the second plane struck the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City,” said Howard Gregory, public information officer for American Legion Post 104. “And all of us instantly realized that our nation was under attack and that life would never be the same for us again.”

Not many members in the audience had any personal connection to the terrorist attacks that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001. However, what happened that day is etched into the memories of most in attendance.

“My coworker got a call from her mother so we immediately turned on the television and we actually saw the second plane as it hit,” recounted one woman who traveled to the ceremony from Brookneal.

As scenes of disaster played out across American television sets 18 years ago, Sgt. Ronald Krauklis was heading toward the disaster.

"And then you hear the words you never want to hear, ‘real world situation, threatcon delta,’” Krauklis told the Appomattox crowd from a podium Wed. morning.

"As a matter of fact, I was supposed to be there that day. A friend of mine was retiring that day. The conference room that he was in was the first conference room the plane hit,” said Krauklis .

Krauklis was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Within an hour of the attack at the Pentagon, he was on scene aiding in rescue and recovery efforts.

“You are just in disbelief that this happened on American soil,” said Krauklis. "I was very surprised by the turn out here. I thought people would start forgetting 9/11, but we should never forget that. This happened on our soil."

The legion has held the ceremony every since 2002. They say not miles apart nor time lapsed will keep them from remembering this tragic day, and honoring the sacrifice of so many, for years to come.