Around 200 people gathered at the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles on Saturday for a 9/11 tribute hosted by the Marseilles Tourism and Parks Committee. Just like September 11, 2001, Marseilles had clear blue and sunny skies.
And when Tara Brickert sang 'God Bless America' and the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' you could hear several in the audience softly singing along with her. The feeling of patriotism was so strong, you could almost touch it.
It was a somber moment when Steve Smith of the Marseilles Lions Club presented the laying of the wreath. Speakers ranged from Mayor Jim Hollenbeck, dressed in full uniform, talking about being on an FBI terrorism task force.
And, he talked about the “many people who to this day are affected by illness caused by the dust and toxins from the Twin Towers explosions.”
Marseilles fire fighter Jeff Owens spoke on behalf of Fire Chief Dave Parrot who was in Louisiana helping with the hurricane disaster.
“When I was asked to speak at this 9-11 20th Anniversary ceremony, my feeling is that 9-11 will never be forgotten but this day is more about the resillency of us as a country. We must all remember we are the United States.”
“At first, it was like we were all watching an action movie,” Marseilles Police Chief, Brian Faber said. “But we were not watching a movie. We were watching real life. And for those of us who lived 9-11, it's almost impossible to believe that it's been 20 years.”
Kate Reynolds talked about the casualties. 2,977 people were murdered, along with the 19 Saudi hijackers. Of thos, 246 were on the four planes, 2,606 were in the World Trade Center and surrounding area. 125 were at the Pentagon. Most deaths were civilians but 344 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel were also killed. The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York has reported over 170 deaths of firefighters due to 9-11 related illnesses.
Roughly 1 in 8 firefighters who were at Ground Zero have developed cancer. At least 221 policemen have died in the years since 2001 from illnesses related to the 9-11 attack.
Reynolds also spoke about the unplanned heroes like Welles Crowther, the 'Man in the Red Bandana,' and Rick Rescoria, head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley, who is credited with saving more than 2,700 lives. Neither of these men survived 9-11.
She mentioned the 44 passengers of United Flight 93 who prevented the plane from exploding into the White House. There were no survivors of that crash. Neither of these men survived 9-11. She talked about newspaper headlines from all over the country and the world.
“The Statesman Journal echoed what we were all feeling: 'President Bush: Terrorists cannot dent the steel of American Resolve.'
Kent Terry of the Marseilles Rotary Club repeated his meditation he gave at the 10th anniversary of the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial.
“It wasn't just a bad day, it was the worst day. September 11, 2001 may go down in history as the darkest day ever for the United States of America. Yet there is an image that I like to hold in my mind that is as powerful to me as the image of the jet bearing down on the World Trade Center or the building collapses. That is the image of the candles lighting the sanctuary at the prayer service held the next evening for the victims. We have the choice every day, even every hours, between good and evil. God's love will prevail and good will overcome evil. God bless America.”
The Middle East Conflicts War Memorial has Pentagon Rock Memorial. Raymond J. Prokaski, Sr. spoke about how it got there.
Mike Garcia, a counter terrorism expert worked at the Pentagon and he saw the plane hit the Pentagon while on his way to work. He immediately got out of his car and took what he calls 'crime photos.' In the months after 9-11, one of his friends, built a small 9-11 memorial in Brooklawn, New Jersey made from one of the rocks from the Pentagon debris.
Garcia contacted the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run who built the War Memorial. Through their cooperation, the Pentagon Rock Memorial was brought to the Marseilles National Guard Training Center in Marseilles in April 2014 before it was later dedicated at the War Memorial. The end of the ceremony included an Honor Guard 21-Rifle Salute by the Marseilles American Legion, Post 235.
“We started planning this event in early spring,” Kathy Kocher, President of the Marseilles Tourism and Parks Committee later said. “Originally, I wasn't able to help due to a conflicting activity but when that cancelled, we able to put it all together. It took a lot of planning and coordination. The ceremony was the idea of Marseilles resident Michelle Turner."