Perhaps because mass shootings in this country are occurring with terrible frequency, or because of the activism of Jon Stewart, comedian and former “Daily Show” host and others that drew attention to the continued toll on the first responders to the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the atmosphere of this year’s 9/11 memorial service at Firemen’s Park was heavy with remembrance and care.
The crowd was smaller than in previous years, but the emotional content of several of the speeches was strong. Fire Chief Brian Scott said, “We gather today in solemn remembrance of the 2,192 civilians, 343 firefighters and 60 police officers lost. 9/11 continues to claim victims of cancer, lung disease and others from what the first responders inhaled.” He thanked Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth for voting in favor of the first responders fund bill.
David Jones, chaplain for the Evanston Fire and Police departments, said, “We found ourselves 18 years ago this morning dealing with something we never thought imaginable.” He said, “The Qur’an says the face of God is everywhere – in every challenge and in every opportunity; 9/11 reminds us that there is great good and great potential for harm in every single one of us.” He added, “the face of God is everywhere. All we have to do is look around.”
Mayor Stephen Hagerty recalled being in New York City shortly after the attack occurred and said, “We persevere because we know that bad things do happen, but the human spirit is stronger than a terrorist attack or the force of nature.”
State Senator Robyn Gabel, said, “The first responders here in Evanston put their lives on the line every day.” Her voice nearly breaking, she added, “We hope for a day the world is at peace.”
Congresswoman Schakowsky did not attend the ceremony. In an email message she wrote, “Today is a day to remember how much was lost 18 years ago. My thoughts remain with the families who have suffered so much. With extremism on the rise at home and abroad we must remain vigilant and continue to work to build a better world in which people of all beliefs and backgrounds can live in peace.”
Evanston Township High School alum Mark Shore, who now teaches at DePaul University, was at work on the 62nd floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit. He and his co-workers escaped. “I was in survival mode. When I got out, I saw the firefighters and police officers running toward the building.”
Police Chief Demitrous Cook said, “Let us never forget the people who sacrificed their lives. Let us train in their memory. I pray that we can continue to be as strong as the firefighters who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. … We will do our best to honor their sacrifice.”
Greg Klaiber, retired Evanston Fire Chief and current Director of Emergency Management at Northwestern University, attended the ceremony, as did retired Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington. Among other elected and appointed officials at the ceremony were State Senator Laura Fine; State Representative Jen Gong-Gershowitz; Aldermen Don Wilson, Eleanor Revelle and Don Wilson; City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Assistant City Manager – soon to be Interim City Manager – Erika Storlie.