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The clear crisp air in Evanston took many back to that day 17 years ago, Sept. 11, 2001, when America was shaken by terrorist acts on Sept. 11, 2001.
A small but solemn crowd that gathered in Fireman’s Park for the annual Patriot Day Remembrance, which began at 7:30 a.m. Speeches by elected officials, chaplains and the Fire and Police chiefs evoked the horror of the attacks, the bravery of the first responders and the continued suffering and rising death toll of those who ran to the conflagration to help.
Two thousand one hundred-ninety-two civilians, 343 firefighters and 60 police officers died that day. Since then, more than 600 more have died from the toxins to which they were exposed at ground zero.
“We are honoring the sacrifices of those who died 17years ago,” said David Jones, chaplain for both the Evanston Police Department and the Evanston Fire Department. “Your job and mine is to tell [young people who may not know] about 9/11 – not so they live in the past, but so they can live in a different future.”
Police Chaplain Rabbi Dov Klein thanked Evanston’s first responders, “the firefighters and police officers who put their lives at risk every single day.”
Evanston police officers and firefighters “who are the ones running into [a crisis] because they are so committed to Evanston,” said State Representative Laura Fine.
Saying that the 9/11 attacks were the “defining tragedy of our era,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky added, “We remember the men and women who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93, which was bravely stopped from hitting its intended target – the U.S. Capitol. We mourn the brave first responders who ran directly into harm’s way and in gave their lives saving others, including the more than 600 first responders who survived that day but have died in the 17 years since then.”
Evanston native Mark Shore, who survived the collapse of the twin towers in New York City that day, noted that, since the twin World Trade Center towers housed many international businesses and organization, “This was an attack not only on the U.S. but on the world.”
Mayor Stephen Hagerty said, “I often preach the importance of love, empathy and kindness. I often wonder what the world would be like if those values offset every other. I suspect we’d have less terror, less death, and less sadness. … Nonetheless, we persevere and progress … the human spirit is stronger than a terrorist attack, a hate group, and mother nature. … And what I’ve learned over two decades of helping people at a time when really bad things happen is that love is stronger than hate; that diversity – with all its challenges – is stronger than uniformity; and that a strong social fabric can help us heal and repair the broken parts of our community and world.”
Police Chief Richard Eddington and Fire Chief Brian Scott were the last speakers. “Thank you for what you do every day,” Chief Eddington said to the Evanston firefighters and police officers. “I appreciate your commitment to never forget and your remaining current in your job skills to keep us all safe.”
“What resonates most,” said Chief Scott, “is the people who continue to suffer – the firefighters, the police officers, the federal agents, the nurses – and those who sacrifice every day for our country. We will defend what they have sacrificed.”
The ceremony closed with the tolling of the fire bell, a traditional signal that a shift has begun, and, upon the death of a comrade, that the final shift is over.