On a warm and clear late-summer day 20 years ago, 2,977 died during the worst terror attack on American soil and a day that would fundamentally change the country.
On Saturday, another warm and clear late-summer day, a crowd gathered in a Peconic park to, in the words of several speakers, “never forget” those who lost their lives that day.
Prior to a solemn ceremony beginning, 2,977 American flags were planted in rows in front of Southold’s 9/11 memorial in Jean Cochran Park. The monument in the park features an I-beam recovered from the wreckage of the North Tower.
“You and this wonderful community have committed to never forgetting,” said Tracey Orlando, chair of the town’s 9/11 Committee. “We will forever miss our loved ones …. Let us be the light that shines.”
The haunting but beautiful ringing of a chime sounded at exactly 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower fell, and again at 10:28 when the North Tower collapsed.
Rev. Peter Kelley of the Southold Presbyterian Church recited a prayer, and a group of Girl Scouts played violins.
In his remarks, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell spoke of the events of 9/11 that remain so fresh in his mind. “I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing,” he said. “And the weather was exactly as it is today.”
He recalled how eager he was to connect with best friends who worked in the South Tower. A friend survived but lost 175 of her colleagues, he said.
“This is a day not just to remember who we lost, but also a day to celebrate those first responders [who lost their lives],” he said. He spoke of first responders who safely brought out people, only to go back to get more and lose their lives.
He spoke of the extraordinary heroism of passengers aboard United Flight 93 who “charged the cockpit and saved hundreds of lives” had the plane continued on to a likely target in Washington, D.C.
“It’s important we never forget,” he said, “and to make sure future generations know the horror of that day and the heroism of that day.”
As the ceremony came to an end, members of the Mattituck High School select chorus sang “America the Beautiful” and a solo singer, Isabel Alvarez sang a haunting “God Bless America.”