HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah —

Seventeen years ago, Sept. 11, 2001, started as any normal Tuesday morning. Then the unthinkable happened: 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and changed an entire nation forever.

Every year since, United States citizens mark the anniversary, a day now known as Patriot Day, by honoring the 2,983 who were killed during the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania by coming together as a nation through memorial ceremonies, moments of silence, reading names and other ways.

On Sept. 11, members from Hill Air Force Base’s 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, which includes Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Fire Department, and Emergency Management, commemorated the day by organizing, and teaming for the first time with fire and police departments from the nearby cities of Kaysville and Layton, for its 3rd Annual 9/11 Memorial Ruck March.

A ruck march is an event where participants walk or jog with a pack on their backs. Hill’s participants wore heavy backpacks or were fully suited in firefighter gear, giving tribute to the 343 fallen firefighters and 60 police officers who perished during the 9/11 terrorist attacks that occurred at the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.

“This march brought us all together as emergency responders to remember not to forget the first responders who died on 9/11,” said Kaysville City Fire Department Chief Paul Erickson. “Sixty plus responders from the base, Kaysville and Layton came together today. It was great support from the base EOD, who put this together for the local police and fire departments.”

The march moved off-base this year, starting at the Kaysville 9/11 Memorial in the Utah State University Botanical Gardens and ended at Hill’s South Gate, a route totaling 9.11 miles. The route included a few stops at both Kaysville and Layton fire stations and the new Vietnam Memorial Wall in Layton. Each stop, the group gathered to listen to a reading about one of the fallen heroes.

“It was a good time, but it was a consistent uphill climb from Layton to base, making the ruck tough,” said Capt. Nathan Demers, 775th CES EOD range flight commander. “We had great support from the Kaysville and Layton police departments as escorts for the entire route, blocking roads and ensuring overall safety.”

Demers, who organized the event and community involvement, hopes this will become a yearly partnership honoring 9/11. Both Erickson and Demers agreed, despite the painful blisters a few had earned, the march was a great success.

“It’s great for our base emergency responders to interact with downtown emergency responders, because on the darkest day when we may need to work together, we’ll have already built some relationships,” Demers said.