TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Veterans, first responders and local dignitaries spent the morning of the 11th anniversary of September 11th, at the Kansas Children's Discovery Center in Topeka, honoring local heroes.
Military mom, Debbie Drexler, from Topeka joined attendees to remember and reflect.
"You never get over it," Drexler said. "You just have to find a way of getting on."
The 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks brings memories of Drexler's son flooding back. Her son, PFC Jeremy Drexler, was killed in action on May 2, 2004, in Afghanistan. Jeremy was killed by an IED while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"He was a good son and a wonderful soldier and he loved his country," Drexler also has two more military sons, both of them deployed.
Drexler joined first responders and local leaders to remember the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that September day, and as the death toll for the war in Afghanistan just topped 2,000 American lives, they remembered all those who've died since.
"The toughest vote when you're a Federal official is to send people to war because you know some are not coming back," Governor Sam Brownback used wreaths and words to thank heroes for their countless instances of bravery.
"After 9/11 there was a choice, but in my estimation there was really no choice. Either we are going to take the battle to our enemy or they are going to keep coming at us," Brownback said.
"We are going to remember the tragedy of that great day and the lesson learned that freedom is not easily retained," Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten said.
It's a lesson Debbie knows first hand.
"Every time you see that name or someone was killed on TV. You break down and cry you go back to that moment when you got that knock on the door, how it made you feel. And you feel for the family. It just breaks your heart all over again," Drexler said.
KCDC's special tribute included a presentation of wreaths to the Topeka Police and Fire Departments, American Medical Response, the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Army National Guard, and the 190th Air Refueling Wing.
Artwork created by area kids was also dedicated to the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center.
Drexler encourages Kansans to remember we are still in America's longest war. She says living soldiers appreciate care packages and support.