Fifteen U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, three in just the last two weeks. The event that precipitated their deaths took place on Sept. 11, 2001, when two of the last three killed were just 13 and 15 years old.
On that late summer day, hijackers seized four U.S. commercial airplanes in a terrorist attack. The collapse of the twin World Trade Center towers, the crash into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the downing of an airliner outside of Shanksville, Penn., claimed 2,977 lives, but the death toll of that fateful day continues to rise.
The country’s military response to the attack continues with 14,000 troops still serving in Afghanistan.
As well, of the thousands of first-responders who worked the scene in New York City, many lives are being claimed by cancer and other illnesses directly caused by the toxic conditions.
Marion Police Chief John Clair feels a burden to remind people that combat deaths connected to 9/11 continue to happen. “There are still Americans dying in defense of the 9/11 attacks,” he said.
Since the initial Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, Clair noted, the country has lost twice as many people in the wars that followed.
As the anniversary nears, Clair wants to encourage people to not see 9/11 as an event that happened 18 years ago, but know that “a piece of it happened yesterday” when the American troops were killed.
Clair and others with the MPD hope to see attendance at 9/11 commemoration ceremonies, which has declined, go back up. They’re doing their part to achieve that goal.
This September, the MPD is conducting a special campaign: “Remember With Us.”
The MPD is creating three brief videos, sharing remembrances of Sept. 11, 2001. Clair, who was then serving in the military, will share his story as will Officer Tim Whisman, who was in the seventh grade at the time, and Sgt. April Morgan, who was an officer with the MPD and was preparing to go on vacation. Those videos will be shared on the department’s Facebook page.
The MPD also wants to learn community members’ stories. One of the department’s vehicles is now displaying special remembrance decals. Clair hopes when members of the community see it parked, they’ll come up and share their stories of 9/11. “We’re hoping to get a lot of conversation going,” the chief said.
Remember With Us will culminate in Marion’s Patriot Day service on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the 9/11 Memorial in front of the Marion Fire Department.
As has been tradition, the program will mark each of the significant times of that day with a bell tolling. It will begin at 7:59 a.m., remembering when American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members, left Logan International Airport in Boston, bound for Los Angeles International Airport. Five hijackers were onboard.
The bell will also toll at 8:46 when that flight crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
At 9:03, Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the WTC.
At 9:37, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
At 9:59, the WTC’s South Tower collapsed.
At 10:03, Flight 93 was brought down by passengers who had learned about the other crashes and fought the hijackers.
At 10:28, the North Tower collapsed.
At 10:30 a.m., the program will conclude with a Tolling of the Bell and Wreath Laying Ceremony, followed by a Prayer of Remembrance and Unity and official remarks.
Lighting of Hungry Mother Lake
Hungry Mother State Park will host a special event in conjunction with the National Day of Service and Remembrance this Friday night, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m.
Individuals will be able to decorate a biodegradable lantern in honor of a family member, loved one, veterans and/or the victims of 9/11.
Marion VFW Post 4667 will post colors and Ranger Bill Haymaker will preside over a ceremony prior to the lighting and releasing of the lanterns onto the lake. Once the lanterns are released, a moment of silence will be observed.
Park officials believe that “as these lanterns illuminate the night we will be surrounded by the memories of our loved ones and the fallen and a much larger message of hope toward a harmonious and peaceful world.”
Lanterns will be available by donation. Proceeds will benefit the two sponsoring organizations, the Friends of Hungry Mother and VFW Post 4667.
The lantern decorating and ceremony will take place at the beach. For more information, contact Chief Ranger Tanya Hall at 276-781-7413 or email@example.com