SANDY HOOK – When the student body of MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, held an assembly and memorial ceremony to commemorate the 9-11 attack on the United States, Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Aislinn Crowe, the Battalion Commander, highest ranking cadet in the Monmouth County Vocational School where all students are in the NJROTC program, was assigned to write and present the main address.

The daughter of Andrew and Sandy Crowe of Brielle, both retired or current NJ Transit police officers, the high school senior went to Brielle elementary school. She said she chose to go to MAST because of their Marine Biology specialization. “I grew up on the water and am very interested in preserving the marine environment.”

Following graduation in June of next year, Lt. Cmdr. Crowe, an honor student at MAST, said her college plans are not yet finalized. She is hoping for the option of an NROTC scholarship to The Citadel in Charleston, SC, or acceptance at one of the federal service academies; after that, the student said she is looking to serve in the Armed Forces as a commissioned officer. 

Retired Navy Commander Tracie Smith-Yeoman, Senior Naval Science Instructor at MAST, said that the annual ceremony has always been important to the cadets, “but particularly this year. The war in Afghanistan has been ongoing their entire lives, and even though they were not yet born on September 11, 2001, they can relate to the thirteen service members we lost at the end of August. This was their chance to honor both those that died on 9/11, and those who have died since then.”

The following is Lt. Cmdr. Crowe’s address at the MAST ceremony on Sept. 11.:

On 11 September, twenty years ago, 2,977 people started their day just like we did. They left the house early and commuted to work, not one thought of anything other than their busy day ahead of them. At 8:46 that morning, their lives changed forever, and so did America’s. We are all familiar with the events that took place on this day, and while we were not in existence for it, we all share the same solemn thoughts upon its mention. We all recognize the extent of the repercussions that were had and the lives that were lost. As author David Levithan said, “What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” So today, I would like to speak on behalf of three groups of people, and what I say may be striking but it’s the reality that those almost 3,000 had to face.

The first group I would like to recognize are the victims. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers- they all went to work or boarded a plane expecting to make decisions such as ‘when to schedule a meeting’ or ‘what to order for lunch’. For those at the World Trade Center, not one of them expected nor deserved to be faced with making a decision to either go down with the tower or take their own way down; a decision on how their life would end, not if. Those on United Airlines Flight 93 faced a similar decision as they committed one of the bravest acts in American history by storming the cockpit and crash landing the aircraft, which intended on hitting the Capitol. The decisions that everyday people, just like us, had to make were unjust and undeserving. The horror that this provokes in us today was the reality for them twenty years ago, and I believe it is in agreement that no person should have to face what they did.

Next, I would like to speak on behalf of every person on this day who made the decision to run towards those buildings instead of away; instead of home to their families. 344 firefighters, 71 police officers, and a number of selfless civilians who climbed flight after flight of stairs, knowing full well that their chances of touching the ground again were very slim. It takes a certain type of person to run into the danger that was presented to them that day, but these men and women did just that. 24-year-old civilian Welles Crowther was last seen carrying people down flights of stairs and running back up, directing people to help others down and get out. He was later found in the rubble alongside New York City firefighters. The following quote reads “Numerous civilians in all stairwells, numerous burn victims are coming down. We’re trying to send them down first … We’re still heading up.” — New York City Fire Department Captain Patrick Brown, his last words over the radio. Inside every person who acted selflessly on this day was a realization that they would die helping others; true heroes doing only what their instinctual traits told them.

And lastly, the third group of people are the ones who didn’t allow all who died on this mournful day to go without justice. The hundreds of Americans who signed up and joined, the thousands who got deployed, and the ones who ultimately died overseas in the continual fight against terrorism. These brave servicemembers gave their all to bring closure for us at home who lost someone on this day, and every single one of them deserve to be recognized for the ultimate sacrifice they paid to do so.

These three groups of people all were deeply affected by the acts of terror that occurred tomorrow, twenty years ago, and none of them deserved what happened to them. I encourage all of you tomorrow to take a moment of silence on your own, to remember all those whose lives were ended in an act of cowardice and terror on our great country.

And finally, as I said before, none of the students here today was alive to experience this day. However, the effects of the attacks on September 11th continued into and throughout our lives. As our military left Afghanistan in the last week of August, after fighting for twenty years too long, we lost 13 great Americans in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. I would like to take the time to read their names and honor their sacrifice:

Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, age 22  Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, age 23, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin Hoover Jr., age 31, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, age 25 Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee, age 23, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, age 22, Marine Corps Corporal Daegan Page, age 23, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto Sanchez, age 22, Marine Corps Lance Corporal David Espinoza, age 20, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, age 20, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, age 20, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, age 20, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, age 20

I would like to close out with a moment of silence, for both all of the people who lost their lives in the most catastrophic act of terror on our country, and for the 13 servicemen and women who recently were killed evacuating our people from Afghanistan.

Thank you for your time, and let us all never forget.

In the photo (name, town, billet in the battalion):

Front row: Cadet Lieutenant Commander Aislinn Crowe, Brielle, Battalion Commander

Second row: Cadet Lieutenant Junior Grade Olivia Bonforte, Ocean Township, Operations Officer; Cadet LTjg Mary Catherine Harvey (hidden from view), Loch Arbour, Training Officer; Cadet LTjg Karris Robertson, Manasquan, Administration Officer Third row: Cadet LTjg Sarah Montanti, Aberdeen, Supply Officer; Cadet LTjg Grace Decker (hidden from view), Monmouth Beach, Community Affairs Officer; Cadet Ensign Jenna Lewandowski, Tinton Falls, Drill Commander

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...