Memories and Mourning Fill Iowans on 21-Mile March for 9/11 Victims

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Sixteen years have passed. Some Iowans remember to mark the occasion, while ohers may have let it slip their minds. Bob Lyons refuses to forget. He can't.

"I walked around," Lyons remembered from the days that followed the terror attack in New York City on September 11th, 2001. "The smell of the air. You were numb. You couldn't cry any longer."

Lyons had been working in the area as an engineer. Several years later, while living in St. Louis, he took part in a march to remember the victims of that attack. Last year, after moving to Clive, he decided to start the metro's own March to the Capitol, a walk from Waukee to the State Capitol in Des Moines.

The journey traveled 21 miles, his group's version of the honorary 21-gun salute in the military.

Lyons hopes people driving by the marchers will take the time to remember the sacrifices of 9/11 and also recall the feelings they had for their neighbors in the days that followed that horrific period. "Hopefully this can bring some of that unity back," Lyons said. "We're all Americans."

Tonya Johnson, of West Des Moines, also took part in the march. She watched the coverage of the 9/11 attacks on television while she was a college student and later visited the site in New York. She took part in this year's march to honor the victims, along with a good friend who is a firefighter in West Des Moines.

"I told friends that I was doing this walk and they were like, 'Oh, it is bad that I forgot?' I'm like, 'yeah!'" Johnson said.

Robert Rasmussen, of Des Moines, also marched with the several dozen others. He has a deep connection to the attacks: two of his relatives who were first responders died. His uncle, a firefighter, died in one of the World Trade Center towers. His cousin, a police officer, died in the other tower. Rasmussen marched while wearing the hat of his cousin after it was recovered in New York City.

"It's emotional," Rasmussen said. "I'm dealing with it in my own little way. After the walk, then it will hit me."