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The morning of Sept. 11, 2016, was clear and bright with a crisp of fall in the air – possibly as bright and clear as that day 15 years ago, if anyone alive then and now could remember that part of the day. A few dozen people gathered at Firemen’s Park at 8:30 a.m. to commemorate those who were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and on the airplane of civilian passengers that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Presentation and retiring of the colors, accompanied by piper Tom Durant of the Skokie Fire Department, a moment of silence observed for each time a plane hit a tower, and the tolling of the bell for the fallen were the pieces of the solemn ceremony.

“For all Americans, the phrase ‘9/11’ will evoke a moment in our history when the world as we knew it changed,” said Fire Chief Greg Klaiber.  “It is fitting to remember and to have a moment of silence. Let this be a reminder to take nothing for granted, to strive to do better, and most of all to cherish our friends and family.”

State Representative Robyn Gabel said, “Today is a somber day, as we remember the day 15 years ago. The spirit of the first responders united our country. We remember the brave men and women who fight against terrorism today, and the root causes of it: poverty, hatred, religious fanaticism.”

Noting that the attack on Pearl Harbor was the only other time an attack on this country had led to a protracted war abroad, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said, “Today I mourn the victims of 9/11 and the 6,000 military personnel who have died since. “I am thankful for the first responders who have spent the last 15 years protecting us. Let us remember and rise up for liberty, for life, for the pursuit of happiness, and for the freedom of all.”

“The leadership that was set by those first responders is most important for the nation,” said State Senator Daniel Biss.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “9/11 is imprinted in our souls.” The compassion and courage of the first responders to the attacks on Sept. 11 are shown by Evanston’s firefighters, paramedics, and police officers every day, she said.

Mark Shore, who worked in one of the World Trade Center towers, told how he and some others escaped before the second building fell. “The police said, ‘Don’t stop, don’t look up.’ I stopped, and I looked up and saw the second tower collapse.” The remembrance ceremonies, he said, “are not purely about the attack itself but about the recovery of the nation.”

Police Chief Richard Eddington said he wished to focus on four groups of people – the 342 firefighters, the 72 police officers, the 55 military personnel who died, and the 11,000 people who were evacuated from the towers. “For the first responders of Evanston, this is significant – that mutual commitment we have to each other. If you are called upon to make a sacrifice, you will not be forgotten.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...