On Saturday morning, the local annual September 11th remembrance ceremony was held — this year on a larger scale as it was the 20th anniversary of the 2001 tragedy.
The ceremony was held in Gardner Park, located on Circle Avenue in Washington Court House, within the football stadium. Local first responders along with the Fayette County EMA, Fayette County Veteran Services, Washington Court House City Schools and Miami Trace Local Schools came together to make the event happen.
The ceremony started promptly at 8:30 a.m. with members of the community in the stands and surrounding the fenced football field. Although there were technical difficulties with the sound system at the beginning of the ceremony, the ceremony overall went well and without any issues.
Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth welcomed those present. A flag raising was then conducted by the Fayette County Honor Guard while the Miami Trace and Washington high school bands provided a drum-roll. The bands then performed the National Anthem.
Associate Pastor of Heritage Memorial Church and RACC Pastor Joy Stanforth provided an invocation.
Sheriff Stanforth then retook the podium to speak until it was time for a bell to be rung at 8:46 a.m. — the time on Sept. 11 of 2001 when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
He explained, “the tolling of the bells is a tradition that was started by the fire services. Throughout history, firefighters were alerted to fires by the tolling of the community bells. Historically, locally, there was a bell on top of the Fayette County Court House and a little blue light.
“That was when the town was much smaller, but when that bell was rang, firefighters knew there was a fire, or the police officer that was walking a beat knew that he had to come back and get the information. (This was) before telephones, before cell phones of course. But the tolling of the bells has been a tradition throughout fire services for generations and generations.
“As firefighters started their shift, it was the ringing of the bell that called them to duty, and the ringing of the bell throughout the day would call the firefighters to a fire. Placing their lives in jeopardy to protect their community. When the call ended, the alarm was completed, and it was the bell that rang three times to signify the end. And today, the tradition continues.
“We ring the bell three times in remembrance of the time that the towers fell. The towers were struck on September 11th, 2001. Firefighters heard the bell in their firehouses throughout New York City, and they all responded without hesitation. And today, the bell will ring three times, followed by a pause. And that pause is for your opportunity of remembrance for the thousands of firefighters that fell on September 11th and the additional thousands of firefighters impacted by the debris — physically and emotionally — over the last 20 years. There will be another three tolling of the bells and another pause. And then a final three times in memory of and in tribute to the firefighters, police officers, many first responders, EMS, the office workers, innocent citizens that were in those towers on September 1st, 2001.
“They lost their lives, they offered up their lives in sacrifice. They responded knowing that they were walking into a disaster to try to get people out of that disaster.”
The bell was rung at 8:46 a.m. by Fayette County EMS Chief Rod List, Washington Fire Department Chief Tim Downing, Concord-Green Fire Department Chief Ralph Stegbauer and Jefferson Township EMS Chief Dana Kellenbarger.
The marching bands then played “Salvation.”
Paul LaRue, a local retired educator, historian and member of the Ohio State Board of Education, then spoke of the day’s events on Sept. 11, 2001.
LaRue said, “most of us likely didn’t know the 2,977 Americans who lost their lives on this day 20 years ago. Most of us probably didn’t know anyone who knew anyone who lost their life that day. But the events of that two-and-a-half hours changed all of our lives and our world forever.
“As we are here today, a ceremony is taking place at Ground Zero in New York City. It will take more than three hours to read the names of the 2,977 Americans who lost their lives that day. They have identified what they consider to be six key moments of that day which I will now share.
“September 11th, 2001 was a Tuesday. It was a nice, crisp, clear day — not unlike the day we have today. At 8:46 (a.m.), the hijackers aboard Flight 11 crashed the plane into the floors 93 to 99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.
“Key moment number two: at 9:03 a.m., hijackers crashed Flight 175 into the floors 75 to 85 of the World Trade Center’s south tower, also killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.
“Key moment number three: by 9:37 a.m., hijackers aboard Flight 77 crashed the plane into the western side of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing 59 on board and 125 personnel inside the building.
“Key moment number four: at 9:59 (a.m.), the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.
“Number five: at 10:03 (a.m.), passengers and crew aboard the hijacked Flight 93 contact friends and family and learn about the attacks in New York and Washington D.C. They then decide to mount an attempt to retake the plane. In response, the hijackers deliberately crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew.
“Finally, at number six, at 10:28 (a.m.), the World Trade Center North Tower collapses 102 minutes after being struck by flight 11.
“2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington D.C. and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania: 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers, 37 were officers of the Port Authority.
“Following 9-11, a popular slogan began, ‘We will never forget.’ It was on bumper stickers, t-shirts and banners. As we stand here 20 years later, I sincerely hope we live up to that phrase. We do that by honoring our first responders, active duty military, all veterans, as well as the families who lost their family members that day.
“If you look across to the bands on the other side (of the field), you see the next generation. Almost everyone there was not alive 20 years ago when this happened. So, it is equally important that we educate — we need to both honor and educate. As we are standing here again, it is hard to imagine the reading of the names. This will go on, like I said, for three-plus hours. So let us take this moment to both memorialize and look to (educate) the next generation so we can truly live up to the phrase, ‘we will never forget.’”
The bell on the field was rung again at 9:03 a.m. — the time the second plane struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Fayette County Commissioner Jim Garland spoke momentarily thanking those who attended the ceremony and to share a quote from former President George W. Bush: “One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9-11. We pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”
Ed Helt, a retired Washington Fire Department assistant chief and local veteran, spoke briefly and then sang “We’re America.”
In the closing of the ceremony, the Fayette County Honor Guard presented a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps. “Amazing Grace” was performed by piper Chris Paisley, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.