MOUNT VERNON — In the shadow of a monument to the service and sacrifice of an earlier generation, the Mount Vernon Fire Department paused Sunday morning to recall the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor the memory of the 3,056 people who died that day.
The ceremony particularly focused on the 343 New York City firefighters and 60 Port Authority and New York City police who died that day.
At 8:46 a.m., the time the first highjacked jetliner struck one of the World Trade Center towers, a pair of bagpipers led a contingent of firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel onto Public Square. There, the keynote address by Knox County Veterans Service Office Director Kevin Henthorn and a bell service and flag raising by the fire department marked the solemn occasion.
Opening the event, Acting Mount Vernon Fire Chief Chris Menapace recounted the events of that terrible day when the planes struck the Twin Towers, another crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth, possibly intended to strike the Capitol or the White House, was taken back by the passengers and crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa.
The loss of life was greater, he reminded the audience, than at Pearl Harbor — 2,386 — or the D-Day landing at Normandy, about 2,500.
Henthorn evoked the sorrow that comes with the memory of those events and those who died, and recalled how, that night, President George W. Bush said that our way of life and our freedoms were under attack.
Why did it happen? What did we do to deserve this? Why were so many lives taken?
But out of the sorrow and questions, he said, “We stood together ready to take the fight to those who were responsible. Heroes rose from the ashes.”
He recalled how the last known words of Todd Beamer, who died aboard Flight 93, became a rallying cry for the nation. “Let’s roll,” was what he was heard to say as he and other passengers took the plane back from the hijackers.