Anyone old enough to remember 9/11 knows that it changed this country forever.
But it also changed the lives of the individuals who lived through it, including the emergency responders and the organizations they're a part of.
"I could say a lot of things that you hear at events like this: 'Live every day to the fullest,' things like that. But the reality is, as much as we say those things, life overtakes us sometimes," Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz told Patch. "There isn't a day that I don't think about that experience."
Schwartz was the incident commander at the Pentagon the day American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into it, killing 184 people.
Upon arriving, his first few moments were dedicated to organizing resources, identifying objectives and trying to bring order to the chaos that had erupted when the plane hit.
Schwartz ended up going almost 40 hours without sleep. One lesson from that is that incident commanders need an early relief, because of the intensity of the decision-making that's required, he said.
"I probably pushed it a little too far in those first few hours," Schwartz told Patch. "But my focus was on the job at hand."
Arlington County police Lt. Bob Medairos was the first commander on the scene on 9/11. His job was to get the blessing of the Pentagon to operate, and then to shut down all access to the site so fire and rescue personnel could access the building — to secure the location, shut down the surrounding roads and help with evacuation.
"Everybody knew their job. Everybody responded to their call of duty," he told Patch.
"When I first arrived at the scene, you could see the jet fuel, smell the jet fuel. But there were no pieces of any plane. You'd think you'd see a piece of the fuselage, or of the wing. But you could pick up the pieces with your hand. It hit the Pentagon so hard, the plane went into it."
Emergency responders had been training for terrorist attacks since the mid-1990s.
"It was really about calling on a number of years of experience and relationships," Schwartz said. He now talks about lessons learned from the response nationally and internationally, and it is presented as a case study at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Schwartz sees talking about that day as part of his continued responsibility. It, in part, changed the nature of his job, he said, citing an increased focus on preparedness and training for large-scale events that don't happen very frequently.
"The lessons from 9/11, especially at the Pentagon, are worth repeating," he said. "What happened was very well-organized, very well-managed, and resulted in a very positive outcome, despite the loss of life."
Those lessons include the importance of sharing information and having a unified command, he said.