By MORGAN MANNS
Remember. Recall. Reflect.
Sixteen years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, citizens country-wide continue to gather to remember the lives lost on that day, recall the feelings surrounding the day and reflect on the how the events changed the lives of millions of Americans.
Dozens of community members spent Monday morning remembering, recalling and reflecting as they came together during Fostoria’s 9/11 Remembrance Memorial ceremony at the Fostoria Fire Station.
While many will recall the devastation, horror and heartbreak that filled the hearts of most Americans, Fostoria firefighter Cory Gregg asked community members to reflect on the feelings that came next.
“America’s a great nation. A nation where we have freedoms, and with those freedoms comes a lot of hate and jealousy and spite from other nations and they commit acts like they did September 11th, 2001,” he said. “Because of those evil actions on that day we lost 3,000 civilians, 60 police officers and 343 firefighters. These are staggering numbers. We were brought to our knees. … But out of those ashes came something beautiful — a totally united country.”
At 9:59 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001, the first tower collapsed after terrorists hijacked two planes and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Americans around the country stumbled to get a grasp on what felt like the world crumbling around them.
“It was a day of sadness for all those families,” Fostoria police Chief Keith Loreno said. “Sixteen years ago, a parent did not come home. Sixteen years later, another parent isn’t enjoying another birthday with their kid. “¦ What those parents wouldn’t do today to be reunited, to be whole again.”
He reflected on his own daughter, sharing a story of when she disappeared from his sight for a brief moment while shopping.
“I don’t know how long it was. I only know that it didn’t matter if it was 16 seconds, 16 minutes or 16 years,” he said. “That leaves a memory for a parent that you never want to relive.”
After the feelings of shock, anger, sadness and fear of what happened began to subside, Gregg said he watched as a new feeling began to surface on the faces and actions of Americans 16 years ago: Pride.
“We were all one race that day and for some time after that. We were the human race. There was no difference in skin color any more. The only colors were red, white and blue,” he said. “Watching the country come together, people of different backgrounds, different beliefs, different political views. We were all one. We were proud to be American. I look at the world now with all the stuff going on. We could use a little bit of unity again.”
He discussed unity of country but also unity of community. The city of Fostoria receives “constant verbal jabs,” according to Gregg, and while it’s not terrorism, he said it doesn’t feel good.
“While we may be stumbling and crumbling down, there’s an opportunity for us to pull together to show that pride and fight for our city, to keep our city safe and moving forward,” he said. “We can come out on the other side better and stronger than we were before.”
Gregg left community members with a challenge of letting their pride and passion as a member of this country and a member of this community become infectious to those they come in contact with.
Delivering final remarks at the ceremony, Mayor Eric Keckler echoed Gregg’s challenge with one of his own.
“People who went to work that day had no idea it was their last day on Earth, their last minute on Earth,” he said. “As you reflect on the events of September 11th, 2001, just bring that to mind. Reach out to someone perhaps you haven’t talked to in a while, someone you’re estranged from. You don’t know when you’re not going to get a chance again to reach out to that person or to just tell someone what they mean to you.”
Chaplain Donald Goodwin and Pastor Paul Myers with Grace United Church of Christ expressed their own gratitude to those who lost and risked their lives that day, as well as to those who continue to do so today with prayers throughout the ceremony.
Loreno also took a moment to thank all emergency service personnel in Fostoria — the firefighters who run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out and the police officers who look for the subject with the weapon while others go the other way — and thank those in attendance for supporting them.
“I asked God to protect us and protect our emergency responders and those throughout the world,” he said.
The United Veterans of Fostoria Honor Guard gave a salute and taps to end the ceremony, at which point community members went to veterans and first responders and shook their hands, embraced them in hugs and thanked them for their service to the United States and Fostoria.