For most of us, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 brings back vivid memories.
Planes flying into buildings, victims jumping to their death, and everyday Americans becoming heroes. For the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks, those memories are real.
Adam Arias was killed at the world trade center in New York City. His brother Don is a Bay County resident.
He said too much time has passed and is worried justice may never be served.
“It’s just hard to believe here we are 20 years later and there are so many unanswered questions and so many unresolved issues,” Arias said.
Arias is angry at the U.S. Government for taking so long to hold a trial and convict the terrorists believed responsible for 9/11
“We fought two wars after that but we just can’t convict the people who actually planned this thing.”
Arias has been to Guantanamo Bay three times for hearings. He’s been face to face with the terrorists.
“I locked eyes with KSM. I also locked eyes with Ramzi Bin al Shibh and they are unrepentant terrorists, no doubt about it.”
And there’s no doubting his frustration with the system and the process.
“It was just blind hate, and I hate to say that, but you know here’s the guy sitting here, so smug with an army of lawyers, like five lawyers, lined up next to him and all of them not court-appointed, many volunteers from NGO’s from nine government organizations that are fighting to free this person.”
And while his fight for the victims lives on so do the memories of his younger brother Adam.
“He was on the 84th floor of tower two which was the south tower, and he told me what he saw and talk about an eye witness to history right?”
Don Arias was an air force major that day at Tyndall Air Force Base when he talked to the northeast air defense sector.
“They said they had received a call from the FAA that maybe a possible hijacking in progress.”
When he put two and two together he called his brother back.
“We talked very briefly and I think my last words to him were, ‘Go home.'”
But Adam did not go home. Instead, his first responder skills kicked in.
He went to work, sending his co-workers out of the building before going back in.
“He stuck around and he was helping firemen and cops.”
Adam would live long enough to be a hero before tragedy struck.
“So although the south tower, tower two was the second to be hit by an aircraft, it was the first to collapse and he got caught up in that collapse,” Arias said.
Four days later on September 15th Don Arias made the trip to New York City, filing reports for the military from ground zero.
And while he’s been back to visit the area since then, he has not yet seen the 9-11 memorial.
“One day I’ll stir up my courage and I’ll go, ah I don’t know that I am ready for that just yet, I had friends go there and send me pictures of my brother’s name on the wall.”
Arias said his brother is bone but still alive in his dreams.
“I do dream about him and it always seems very real and it always seems very personal,” he said.
For now, he vows to never forget and find justice for his brother.
“We shouldn’t forget, but I think our government has forgotten, not only have they forgotten, they don’t give a damn, ah they it’s all just political now. It’s not about justice anymore, so I think people really need to be involved in that search for justice,” Arias said.
The alleged mastermind of the attacks Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and four other suspects are still awaiting trial. No trial date has been set, and it’s unclear if it will ever take place.
In Adam’s memory, the Arias family established the Adam P. Arias, Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Scholarship at Florida State University Panama City. Graduate students working with children with autism, displaying a commitment to community service, and seeking to become Certified Behavior Analysts are eligible for the scholarship.
Donations may be made to the Adam P. Arias ABA Autism Scholarship Fund with checks made payable to the FSU PCC Foundation with a memo on the check or enclosed note that the gift is for the ABA scholarship in memory of Adam Arias. Your meaningful gift is tax-deductible through the Florida State University Foundation, Inc.
Mail your contributions to:
Florida State University Panama City
4750 Collegiate Drive
Panama City, Florida 32405