On Sept. 11, town continues promise to ‘never forget’

A tribute outside Town Hall as part of the annual ceremony marked the loss of local lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as the bravery of first responders, many of whom sacrificed their lives trying to help others. — John Ferris Robben photo

A tribute outside Town Hall as part of the annual ceremony marked the loss of local lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as the bravery of first responders, many of whom sacrificed their lives trying to help others.
— John Ferris Robben photo

In the 12 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which took the lives of 29 residents and those with close ties to Greenwich, Christopher Hughes said that gathering together to mark it has never lost importance.

“Our message here, as always, is very clear,” Mr. Hughes said at a ceremony last Wednesday on the anniversary of the attacks, “and this year we want to reinforce it. We are here for remembrance, fellowship and peace.”

Mr. Hughes, commander of the American Legion Post 29 in town, once again served as the master of ceremonies for the Town Hall ceremony. The event, which attracted more than 100 residents, included a tribute from Greenwich police officers, firefighters and EMTs to the first responders killed in the attacks, the raising of the American flag and a bell rung for each of the names of town residents who were killed.

Additionally the “flag of heroes” to mark the first responders who were lost and the “flag of honor” that had the names of all the civilians killed in the attacks were displayed by the podium. Candles were lit when the names of the local victims were read aloud and, at the end of the ceremony, people lined up to place flowers. Mr. Hughes talked about the selfless acts of heroism that day as people saved lives by helping, and also about how first responders rushed into danger to try and help more.

“Today we mark a very specific day that the passage of time will never diminish in importance or in the amount of pain that it holds for so many,” Mr. Hughes said. “We gather as a community, not just as a town. We gather as a group that’s part of a human society. We’re a group that believes our way of life and a way of life that is inclusive for all is the way we should all live, and a life that strives to continuously live under the blanket of peace with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

First Selectman Peter Tesei praised the ceremony as a chance for the town to show its support for those who lost family members, loved ones and friends in the attack.

“These victims were fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends and our neighbors,” Mr. Tesei said. “They were part of the Greenwich community and each year we vow to pay our respect to each of them and the lives they led and shared with our community. We commit ourselves to remember them always through ceremonies, memorials, prayer vigils and by continuing to uphold the American principals of liberty and freedom… We will demonstrate to those who committed such heinous acts that they will never break our steadfast commitment to liberty and freedom.”

The event was held this year as efforts are gaining strong momentum to build a memorial in a refurbished Cos Cob Park overlooking the water that would be unveiled next year. The design for the proposed memorial has two crystal towers symbolizing the World Trade Center in New York City with an American flag etched into them and the names of the victims placed in that flag. There is already a memorial put together by the family of resident Ben Fisher, who was killed in the attacks, on Great Captain’s Island but this memorial was meant to have better access to anyone who wants to see it. James Ritman, head of the non profit Greenwich Community Projects Fund, was on the podium for the event and fund raising is underway.

Mr. Hughes called it “an important effort” and praised the design of the memorial. More information is available online at Sept11memorialgreenwich.org.

But the focus wasn’t just on the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Hughes, a Marine veteran, also turned attention to what’s happened since, noting the 5,281 service men and women who were killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“When we gathered for the first time behind this Town Hall in a small field, we embraced a phrase, ‘We must never forget,’ in hope that our vigilance and maybe a little more hope and faith would last forever, and that our eyes would be opened to the realities of the world in which evil still lurks,” Mr. Hughes said. “Unfortunately over the past three years we have again suffered the murderous acts of terrorism.”

Mr. Hughes cited the Ft. Hood massacre where a man killed 13 fellow soldiers, the Boston Marathon bombings from this year as well as the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, where four Americans were killed, including the ambassador.

“We don’t know why this happens, but we must remain strong and rededicate ourselves to end terrorism,” Mr. Hughes said. “We must maintain a loud voice to those who would seek to diminish the realities of the world or even to rewrite history. So we must add to ‘Never forget’ with ‘Protect our peace’ or ‘Peace to all.’”

The Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy was a participant in the event. Rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz of Temple Sholom was one of the speakers and recalled the fear, anger, confusion and despair that people felt the day of the attacks.

“The world has changed and we have too,” Rabbi Hurvitz said. “Today we come resolved to be people of faith. We wish to procure help by the friendship we share despite our differences. We are committed as an American and human family to work together as people of peace. We ask that God open us to the power of his love and that we should more greatly learn to love each other, for we are all made to be equal in God’s image. Let us turn our grief into sacred actions for the sake of the entire world.”

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