CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4) – It has been 20 years since nearly 3,000 people were killed and thousands were injured in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. One southern Utah university is doing what it can to make sure those lives lost – in addition to those who served in the subsequent war – are never forgotten. 

Michael Mower is among those preparing to pay tribute. He is the executive director and chief instructor with Southern Utah University’s College of Aerospace Sciences & Technologies. He had also just finished active duty with the Air Force and was entering into the reserves when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. 

“I remember, you know, where I was at, when the attacks took place, I was eating a bowl of Cheerios, watching the news, just before I head off to work, and watching this thing unfold,” Mower recalls. “I clearly remember exactly what was going on and thinking, you know, I just come back from the Iraq theater. And, you know, what are we getting into? And what’s happening?”

In the days after Sept. 11, as many remember, the U.S. tried to come to terms with what had happened. Then-President George W. Bush quickly declared war and American troops were soon on the ground in Afghanistan. The U.S. presence remained in Afghanistan until late August. 

Before American forces were completely out of the country, a suicide bomber attack outside the airport in Kabul killed 13 U.S. troops – a Navy medic and 12 Marines, including Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover of Salt Lake City. All 13 have been awarded Purple Hearts and will be remembered on Friday at Southern Utah University. 

“We’re a bunch of patriotic folks down here and this, the 20th anniversary, especially with the events that just took place in Afghanistan, this is something that’s really bringing a lot of emotions up,” Mower says. 

On Friday, Mower explains there will be a flyover on campus at Southern Utah University featuring 13 helicopters – one for each soldier killed in the Kabul suicide bomber attack. The aircraft will fly in what is known as a missing man formation. In this case, Mower says it will not be a little different.

“It’ll end up being a missing man formation, not in the typical sense. We are going to have one aircraft pull up and out, but generally, you don’t have a missing man formation where there are 13 helicopters, so it’s gonna be a pretty big deal,” he explains. The flyover by SUU’s Aviation Department will begin the commemoration, put on by the university’s Veterans Center. 

The event will begin, with the flyover, at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 10 on SUU’s Library Quad. 

On Saturday, SUU Aviation will take to the skies again in a five-ship formation, following a more typical missing man formation over the ceremony being held at Cedar City’s Veterans Memorial Park.

“We’re just happy to be part of it, we’re happy to, you know, go out and show that we’re there,” Mower tells ABC4.com. He says about half of the staff at SUU are veterans with the vast majority either serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or in support of those operations. “For 20 years, we gave those folks over there a taste of what freedom was like. These [soldiers] died and we lost a lot of good folks, men and women, over that 20 year period.”

Mower continues, saying he believes it’s important to remember those lives lost overseas in the years after Sept. 11. 

“These individuals, in the service of their country, went and did what they were supposed to do. And when they come home, if they’re marginalized, or if they’re somehow shunned or, people are showing hate or something towards them, that is a disservice not only to the individual, but it’s a disservice to the country,” he says. “When we go out, these flyovers that we’re doing, our purpose here is to really put out that we remember, we remember what they’re doing, what they have done. And hopefully, the rest of the country sees that as well.”