THE NRPD HONOR GUARD presents the colors at the town’s 20th 9/11 remembrance ceremony while Call Firefighter Jeff Strong (foreground) awaits the signal to toll the bell in honor of the victims. (Maureen Doherty Photo)
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — The bluest of blue sky days, eerily similar to the gorgeous cloudless sky on that most tragic of days 20 years ago, greeted the town’s first responders Saturday morning as they assembled at the firehouse in their dress blues to remember the 2,977 souls lost on September 11, 2001.
Townspeople of all ages, grandchildren clutching the hands of their grandparents, veterans holding American flags, thankful civilians and young mothers and fathers who were barely old enough to recall the actual attacks themselves brought their children in tow so that they will also never forget what happened that day. All were lost in their own thoughts while respectfully observing the presentation of the colors by the North Reading Police Department Color Guard followed by the lowering of the Fire Department’s American flag to half staff by firefighter Brian Letendre. Call firefighter Jeff Strong tolled a small silver fire bell in honor of the hundreds of first responders who died trying to save the victims at the World Trade Center.
Fire Chief Donald Stats thanked those in the audience for attending the ceremony to remember the nation’s loss with them. He recalled the grim statistics of 2,977 innocent victims from 78 countries who were lost to the hatred of fanatical terrorists two decades ago.
“Twenty years have passed since the tragic events on September 11, 2001 took place. The events of that day touched all of our lives, forever. It is a day that demands reflection, by all of us, to what transpired. To think about the planes crashing into all three sites. To think about how terrified the innocent victims must have felt. About the heroes that responded selflessly to save those trapped and assist those to safety who were wandering lost and in shock. About the collapses, rubble and destruction that resulted at each site and in the lives of everyone that lost a loved one that day,” he said.
Among the 2,703 victims at the World Trade Center in New Your City were 343 New York City Firefighters, 23 New York City Police Officers and 37 Port Authority Police Officers.
He added that the list of victims included 189 people at the Pentagon and 44 people at the Pennsylvania crash site of Flight 93.
“The events that occurred that day forever shaped our lives, truly making us look at what is most important in life, both at home and at work,” the chief said. “Those events moved a nation into action with a sustained war on terror which resulted in thousands more selflessly serving and sacrificing within the Armed Forces community.”
Chief Stats provided a timeline of the events of 9/11.
• At 0846 hours: American Airlines flight 11 crashes into floors 93-99 of the North Tower
• At 0903 hours: United Airlines flight 175 crashes into floors 75-85 of the South Tower
• At 0937 hours: Flight 77 crashes into the western façade of the Pentagon
• At 0959 hours: The South Tower collapses
• At 1007 hours: Flight 93 was deliberately crashed into a field in Somerset, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake the plane from the hijackers
• At 1028 hours: The North Tower collapses
“September 11, 2001 is a day about tragic loss, courage, strength and sacrifice. It is a day that should never be forgotten. The timing of this ceremony here and at each Fire Department across the nation begins at 0959 with the collapse of the South Tower that morning,” the chief said.
Pastor Rachel Fisher of the Aldersgate United Methodist Church offered the following prayer: “Oh God, we remember before you this day our brothers and sisters lost on September 11, 2001. We thank you for their example of courage and sacrifice. In your boundless compassion, console their families, friends, co-workers and all who mourn their loss. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our journey and serve with honor, dignity and courage. Amen.”
Prayers were also offered by Firefighter Michael Tannian and Police Sgt. Thomas Encarnacao. Current and past members of both the police and fire departments stood at attention throughout the ceremony.
The formal ceremony at the Fire Station ended with Call Firefighter Strong tolling the bell several times again and the retiring of the colors. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto thanked all of the first responders for their dedicated service on every shift and invited all those in attendance to continue the remembrance ceremony in front of the Flint Memorial Library where moments of silence were offered for the civilians lost on 9/11 by Select Board Chair Kate Manupelli and for the veterans lost since the 9/11 terrorist attack by Veterans Event Committee member Ken Ravioli.
Veterans’ Services Director Sue Magner recalled the tremendous sacrifices made by our nation’s armed forces during America’s longest war throughout the past two decades of the continuous War on Terror.
Stunning 9/11 remembrance exhibit at the library
A crowd of over 20 people of all ages then attended a very moving exhibit of posters on loan from the 9/11 Museum in NYC that chronicle the many facets of the 9/11 attacks
It is well worth a visit to the library’s second floor reference room to view this exhibit which has been extended by two weeks, through September 30, to provide more opportunities by members of the public to view it. It is accessible to all just a few steps from the elevator door during the library’s regular operating hours (Mon-Tue-Thu: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wed-Fri-Sat: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Through words, stories and stunning photography visitors will learn much about the day that changed the world in 20 minutes. This exhibit encapsulates the best and worst moments of September 11, 2001 – from our nation’s collective innocence of September 10, 2001 to the wisdom gained on September 12, 2001.