Firefighters, police and military personnel in uniform lined up at the Cantine Veterans’ Memorial Complex Wednesday, September 11, to remember and honor the service people — police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) ambulance drivers and others who turned out to serve in the aftermath of the terror attack on September 11, 2001 and to mourn the victims.
In his opening homily, Fr. Chris Berean asked a blessing for “us this evening as we remember those who gave their lives in the service of their country and of those who died on this night 18 years ago.”
Supervisor Fred Costello recalled that September 11, 2001 was a day of shock and mourning across the country. “More than 3000 souls had been lost in attacks on New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania,” he said. Costello emphasized that the victims of the attacks were civilians. “The victims of 9/11 were our friends, our neighbors, our brothers and our sisters. These were people just like you and I; they were on their way to work on a clear, sunny September morning. Of the 3000 people killed, more than 400 of them were uniformed first responders.” Most of those first responders were not in the initial World Trade Center attack, he said, but were “killed in the line of duty, heroically trying to help others.
“News reports continually showed video of the attacks and the devastation that was left in their aftermath. Thousands of people were unaccounted for and news reports featured family members and loved ones amazingly calm, but stricken with grief, showing pictures of their family members in the desperate hope that someone, anyone, might have information about their well being.
“The Pentagon, the symbol of our nation’s strength, was left on fire and partially collapsed. Heavy damage right in the heart of our nation’s capital,” he said. “A quiet community in central Pennsylvania was left scarred by a crater where the airliner was flown directly into the ground, killing everyone on board.”
That military units were protecting bridges and tunnels in other potential target sites “was oddly comforting, but at the same time shocking to many of us,” Costello said, as “we were only accustomed to seeing military equipment on television and at celebrations or parades. For many of us to see military hardware in defense of bridges, tunnels, airports and sporting events was a daily reminder of how much things had changed since the September 11 attacks. ”
While it was not clear at the time whether America could recover from the devastating attacks, Costello said, “…today, standing here with you, 18 years after the 9-11 attack, one thing about America has become quite clear — our resilience. The quick and brave response of the first responders proves that we are a strong and resilient people,” he said.
From first responders and volunteers in New York and Washington to the passengers of Flight 93, who forced a crash in Pennsylvania rather than allow the hijackers to use it as a weapon in Washington, “the courage of first responders and citizens alike made clear the resilience of our country,” Costello said. “Even though we had been the victim of a terrorist attack, we had not become victims of terrorists as our enemies so wanted to happen.”
The response the September 11 attack “gives me confidence that we can face the challenges ahead, it has now become our responsibility to share our first hand memories of the event.”
It is important that we focus on the things that bring us together rather than the things that tear us apart, Costello said.
The keynote speech was followed by the laying of a wreath at the tomb of the unknown, a salute from the firing squad, bagpipe music and the playing of taps and a benediction from former post 72 Chaplain Jim Gage.