It has been 16 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 and to this day, people all over the country take the day each year to honor the fallen and remember what happened on that day.
On Monday morning, the second annual March to the Capitol started in Waukee, and a group of supporters, fire fighters and more walked up to 21 miles from Centennial Park to the State Capitol in Des Moines. The walk was free to register and anyone was invited to participate.
“This is a unifying walk,” said Bob Lyons, president of the March to the Capitol. “All people, all races, all ages, you know, we’re all Americans.”
The participants were encouraged to bring their American flags along for the walk.
“To see a line of flags walking down the street on nine-eleven, not only is it an instant reminder, but it gives you the chills and it’s just something that’s special.”
Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg spoke to the participants at Centennial Park before they got started and walked with them for a short portion of the event.
Gregg spoke to the impact that 9/11 had on people from his generation.
“You think about each generation, and each generation has its watershed moment that you always remember where you were when it happened,” Gregg said. “For some generations, that’s maybe Pearl Harbor, for others, maybe the Kennedy assassination, for others, the Challenger explosion.
“For my generation, and for those of us here today, nine-eleven is that moment, or ranks among those moments.”
Gregg said that the walk serves as a way to reflect on that day 16 years ago and to honor the lives that were lost.
“For some of us, it’s reflecting, not just on the memory of watching it on TV, but remembering losing loved ones,” Gregg said. “We’ve got one walker here today who lost both an uncle and a cousin at different points throughout that day, who he’s walking in honor of.”
Gregg also said that the walk was a chance to reflect on the “incredible, selfless sacrifice” of the first responders on 9/11.
“You think about the fire fighters and the policemen who were running in when everybody else was running out, and when probably every aspect of human instinct would tell you to run out, but yet, they ran in,” Gregg said.
The walk didn’t garner a lot of attention in its first year in 2016 and only had 12 walkers. This year, however, the event has several sponsors and nearly 70 walkers who registered to participate.
The participants walk 21 miles, representing a 21-gun salute.
Lyons said that he lived in New York area on Sept. 11, 2001 and was able to go into the city about a month after the attack and smell the smells and see the sites of the destruction that was caused.
He started the event here in the Des Moines area after participating in a similar event called March to the Arch, in St. Louis for several years.
“Instead of driving back to St. Louis every year, I decided to bring the walk up here and start it here,” Lyons said.
The March to the Arch in St. Louis has about 600 walkers each year, according to Lyons, and he says that’s where this walk is heading.