As important as it is to never forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, many people today would like to see the nation be more like it was on Sept. 12 that year.
People were nice to one another and came together to help each other. American flags were proudly displayed. Churches were full. Americans bravely stepped up to serve in the military or become a first responder.
The nation was united.
That was theme of the speakers during the city of Seymour’s inaugural 9/11 ceremony, conducted Saturday morning at Shields Park in Seymour.
It was an appropriate time to introduce this event, as Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of terrorists crashing planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Angel Abshear, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Seymour, said she will never forget where she was on that September day: Sitting in an ambulance with her partner while serving with the Center Township Volunteer Fire Department in Marion.
While it was difficult to watch it all unfold, she said she remembers how the country united on Sept. 12, 2001.
“We came together in the principles that this country was built on,” she said, as food and other items were collected for those impacted by the tragic day in which 2,977 people lost lives.
Abshear said her church youth group sent a semi full of socks.
“There were so many clothes and provisions sent to New York City that they didn’t know what to do with it all, but what they did know is they were not alone,” she said.
“Let us go to our creator and father and thank him not only for him being present with all of the civil servants that helped that day but for him being present with all of us in the 20 years that have followed,” she said. “Let us ask him to make us the country that we were on 9/12.”
Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said he recently came across a quote by Jeff Parness, founder of the New York Says Thank You Foundation: “When Americans lend a hand to one another, nothing is impossible. We’re not about what happened on 9/11. We are about what happened on 9/12.”
“Think about that as you walk away today and remember that we came together as a nation the day after the most horrific attack we’ve ever seen,” he told the crowd gathered for the ceremony. “Let’s figure out how to come together as a country one more time. Let’s figure out how to make our community better.”
One way to do so is find a local charity and help out however you can, Nicholson said.
“Find what your passion is and go out and help them, lend a hand,” he said.
Nicholson also said it’s important for people who were alive when the terrorist attacks occurred to know how to talk to the generation that wasn’t.
In researching pieces of advice, he said to be prepared and ready to listen to kids when they want to talk about it, give them the answers you know and look up the ones you don’t, be specific and emphasize hope. Emotions are going to vary for both parties, he said, but it’s important to remember what happened that day.
Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas shared the breakdown of the 2,977 people who died on 9/11.
“It was such a beautiful almost fall day that day, and you wonder ‘How can anything go wrong? How could anyone penetrate our soil and do something like this? How could 19 Middle Easterners associated with Al-Qaeda be persuaded to take that many lives?’” he said. “I just can’t fathom how that could happen, but it did, and our lives have been forever changed.”
Thousands of others were killed defending the country in Operation Enduring Freedom, and firefighters and others who worked on rescue efforts developed respiratory diseases from the smoke and debris, Lucas said.
Despite all of that, he said a lot of good came about after 9/11. People donated blood and gave money to the 9/11 charity, the Department of Homeland Security was formed to protect America’s borders and a 9/11 memorial with reflective pools was completed where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
“Always remember,” Lucas said in closing after thanking the local first responders and military personnel in attendance and those serving around the world.
Before Saturday’s ceremony, nearly a dozen people gathered at Shields Park to place 2,977 flags on the ground to represent all of the lives lost on 9/11.
Elijah Downey, 14, a freshman at Seymour High School and member of Boy Scout Troop 529, was among those who helped with the hour-and-a-half effort.
“Community service is a big part of what we do,” he said. “I’m the Scout leader of the troop, so I felt that I should show up, especially in case any other Scouts were here, because I’m supposed to be that example. It’s just important to me that we respect all of those lives that were lost, and I just wanted to be a part of some memorial service.”
While he wasn’t alive when 9/11 happened, Downey said the adults he helped Saturday morning were.
“I know that it personally affected them in some way. I know that it had an impact on pretty much every adult in my life, so I was just thinking I know this affects other people, and it’s important to them that I’m here, that I’m placing all of these flags,” he said.
Once all of the flags were placed, Downey said it put in perspective just how many people died on 9/11.
“Even though I wasn’t around when this happened, it’s still important to remember the lives that were lost, and we need to make sure nothing like this ever happens again because this was a terrible, terrible tragedy that happened,” he said. “History repeats itself, especially if we’re not careful, so we need to educate people about what happened.”
In her closing prayer, Abshear said she knows God was present on 9/11, and he was with all of those who died and was present with their families in the weeks, months and years to follow as they grieved. She said God also was present with all of the emergency and military personnel who stepped up to sort through the rubble and pull people to freedom.
The pride that was evident in America after 9/11 needs to return today, she said.
“I pray we would search our hearts to make her a great country once again, that we would remember each life lost, each life that searched through that rubble and that none of that would be in vain, for we would find purpose and come together again for your glory,” she said. “In Jesus’ name and all God’s people said, ‘Amen.’”