As Americans (and Canadians) commemorated the tenth year anniversary of 9/11, I am still deeply saddened by what happened to the almost 3000 innocent people in New York City, Washington and from United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. I imagine that Americans feel the tragedy of 9/11 even more painfully and personally than us Canadians. I hope that people never forget the almost 3000 victims and work to keep their memory alive.
The last half year, I have started watching the news more regularly, particularly the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). There having been very moving tributes during the last week on the various popular news shows that I watch. I feel that the 10th year anniversary tributes this weekend did justice to the victims and their families. It was very thoughtful of President Obama to send our Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a thank you letter on Friday, September 9, thanking Canadians for the role that they played in helping thousands of displaced passengers during the aftermath of 9/11.
On Saturday, September 10, a Flight 93 National Memorial service took place in the field where Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A beautiful memorial was dedicated yesterday, with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in attendance. I was hoping to watch the service live via the History Channel, but there were technical difficulties and it didn’t work. I was able to see parts of the dedication service on CBC News. My favourite Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan performed at this tribute, singing her beautiful songs “I Will Remember You” and “Angel.”
The 9/11 Memorial Dedication ceremony at Ground Zero in New York City was very emotional and moving. The names of the 2, 600 victims were read out loud, often by their family members. It was touching to see President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the memorial service. It was memorable to see President and First Lady Obama with George W. Bush and Laura Bush – united to commemorate the tragedy that was 9/11. After ten long years, the memorial at the World Trade Center grounds opened today for the families of the victims and will open tomorrow to the general public. At the base of where the World Trade Center North and South towers once stood, lovely reflective pools and foundations have been built, with the names of each victim etched in stone along the perimetre of the memorial. A youth choir performed Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” beautifully at the service.
President Obama read Scripture from Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea.
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake
with its swelling,
there’s a river
whose streams shall make glad
the City of God,
the holy place of the Tabernacle
of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her.
She shall not be moved.
God shall help her
Just at the break of dawn.
…Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
…The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
President and First Lady Obama visited the United Flight 93 memorial. They laid a floral wreath at a memorial wall and greeted family members of the 40 victims. The passengers and crew of Flight 93 have been heralded as heroes of 9/11, as they made a decision to fight back and prevent their plane from hitting its intended target in Washington, DC. Several of the passengers’ final cell phone calls to loved ones were replayed – very heart-wrenching.
Vice-President Biden spoke at the memorial service at the Pentagon, where 187 people lost their lives – those in the plane that hit the building plus those that were working in the Pentagon. A breath-taking tribute has been built on the grounds in front of the fateful plane’s flight path – an arched bench for every one of the victims, with their names inscribed on it.
A lovely two hour memorial service took place this afternoon in Gander, Newfoundland, a small town in which almost 7000 travellers landed in after the military and Air Traffic Control made the historic decision to shut down the American air space. Almost 4000 air planes were in the air when the terrorists attacks happened and all planes had to make emergency landings – many planes landing in cities all over Canada. This Nfld. tribute was very moving. A choir sang several inspiration songs. The mayor of Gander and premier of Newfoundland gave thoughtful speeches. I was especially impressed with the speech given by the American Ambassador to Canada – he showed genuine appreciation to the people of Gander for their acts of service during the five days after the 9/11 tragedy in which the air passengers were grounded in Gander. A favourite part of the ceremony for me was the choral performance given by over a hundred grade two students.
I just watched the most dramatic and impacting documentary – a two hour documentary just released today called “9/11: 10 Years Later” hosted by actor Robert De Niro. Summer 2001, two film-makers who are brothers decided to make a documentary about a new New York City fire fighter as he progressed through his training – a man named Tony. Tony has been lamenting that he had not experienced a fire to fight in the several months that he had been in training. Then the morning of September 11 happened and the fire fighters of his firehouse, Ladder 1, all went to bravely rescue the people trapped in the World Trade Center Tours. One of the film makers actually accompanied the Fire Chief into Tower One and filmed the tragedy from inside the tower – where the fire fighters were not yet aware of the gravity of the situation. The fire fighters didn’t even know that it had been a deliberate act of terrorism that brought the towers to their demise until after their narrow escape. It was very dramatic and memorable footage.
The Ladder One fire hall became known as the “Miracle House” as every single fire fighter made it out of the Trade Center towers alive. The documentary featured intimate interviews with the new fire fighter Tony, as well as men of his fire house. The film helped make a meaningful connection to the viewers – that every single one of the 343 New York City firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attacks were real people, with parents, partners, children, feelings, dreams and fears. Sadly, several hundred FDNY fire fighters have since developed various forms of cancer from the toxic air that they had to breath at the site of the attacks as they spent hours and days searching through the rubble for survivors and human remains. Two of the fire fighters of Ladder 1 have recently died of cancer caused by the toxic dust that they breathed in during their search-and-rescue mission. The film draw attention to a dire problem – the Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the “Survivor’s Guilt” that many FDNY fire fighters have wrestled with during the last decade.
Commenting on the beautiful new memorial reflective pools at Ground Zero, a fire fighter said “They left a footprint of the towers – sacred ground.” As a testament to the almost 3000 victims of 9/11, including the 343 FDNY fire fighters, I feel that those of us who remain should strive to experience life to the fullest – taking nothing for granted. May we never forget their sacrifices.
USA Today wrote a good article on President and First Lady Obama’s tributes to the victims of 9/11.
May God bless the United States of America and the memory of all of the victims of the senseless tragedy of 9/11.