Three years after a terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola, flags throughout the state of Florida are flying at half-staff in honor of the lives lost on that tragic day.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered flags at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday in remembrance of 19-year-old Naval Aircrewman 3rd Class Mohammed Haitham, 21-year-old Naval Aircrewman 3rd Class Cameron Walters and 23-year-old Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.
Mohammed "Mo" Haitham was a track and field star at Lakewood High School in St. Pete.
"Every year it just seems like yesterday, like we're starting over. It doesn't get easier," Evelyn Brady, Haitham's mother, said.
The then 19-year-old would've been 22 years old in two weeks. Haitham had just been assigned flight crew training at naval air station in Pensacola when a man shot into a classroom, killing three and wounding others. He and two other sailors ran at the gunman to stop him.
"A part of me is just gone. A part of me is missing, it will always be missing. I have my other two sons but my life is no longer complete. It was me and my three sons, you can't replace him," Brady said.
Years later the naval air station in Pensacola continues to honor Haitham and the two other men who risked their lives
"Let this continue, remembering what they did for our country, they served their country well. They paid the ultimate price. I will continue to grieve until my last breathe, but I'm proud of him. I am proud of what he did," Brady said.
DeSantis' order to keep flags at half staff is in place from sunrise to sunset on what the governor has designated as Naval Air Station Pensacola Remembrance Day.
"...Northwest Florida is home to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, a special place where brave warriors who wear the wings come for flight training to protect and serve our great state and nation," the governor's proclamation read. "...we must never forget the honorable lives of Airman Mohammed S. Haitham, Airman Apprentice Cameron S. Walters, and Ensign Joshua K. Watson."
In addition to the three sailors killed, eight others were wounded in the 2019 attack by 21-year-old Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student from Saudi Arabia, as he opened fire in a classroom before being fatally shot, according to the FBI.
Just over a month after the attack, the Department of Justice began treating the investigation as an act of terrorism. In 2020, Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaida leader who claimed responsibility for the attack, was killed during a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen.