Community gathers at Beirut Memorial to honor lives lost 34 years ago

(Photo: Merrilee Moore)

JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - 34 years after the attack that killed almost 300 Americans in Beirut, Onslow County residents gathered for a remembrance ceremony to remember those lives lost.

Veterans, family members and residents alike gathered on Monday, October 23, at the Beirut Memorial in Lejeune Memorial Gardens to remember what many believe was the first attack in the war on terror.

"The terrorist attack at Beirut was truly my generation's September 11," Commanding General of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Robert Hedelund said.

Marine veteran Emanuel Simmons still remembers the day he woke up trapped underneath an exploded building.

"My room was right over the entrance of the building right on the second deck," Simmons said. "I didn't feel a whole lot. I heard a lot of moans, I heard a lot of machinery. I was able to move my right arm and since I didn't feel anything on this side I thought my left arm was gone."

Simmons told WCTI NewsChannel 12's Merrilee Moore about his experience that day.

"I was just trying to see what I could move so I can get out of that rubble," Simmons said. While Simmons was successful in getting out of the rubble, many others did not.

HAPPENING NOW: Beirut Memorial Observance at Lejeune Memorial Gardens.

-- Merrilee Moore (@mmooreofficial) October 23, 2017

"The 273 names of our fellow service members etched on the wall behind me signify the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens before 9/11," Hedelund said. "How can we best honor that tragic loss?"

Navy veteran Darrel Gibson also attended the memorial service.

"We miss them. I miss them a lot," Gibson said. "There were some good guys there -- we had a good group."

"This has to go on. Their story has to be told," Simmons said. "We cannot forget this or push this to the side."

Jacksonville community members hold this remembrance ceremony every year at the Beirut Memorial and plan to continue for years to come.

"I think it's very important not just for the military population but for the community -- everybody needs to know how we got to where we're at and what we're gonna do next," Simmons said.