TORONTO - The Gem City remembered the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, through song and speech during a somber ceremony Tuesday at the city gazebo commons.
First responders who also died during the attack were remembered during the ceremony, along with the resilience of the nation in recovering.
The ceremony began with Thomas Graham, Jefferson County commissioner, singing the national anthem before David Rhodes, first vice commander of the Toronto American Legion Post 86, welcomed those gathered. Rhodes hailed the nation's first responders for their diligence on Sept. 11.
Mark J. Miller
TRIBUTE — The Rev. Raul Diaz, pastor of the Toronto Cornerstone Church, paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and also the nation’s endurance during a memorial service Tuesday at the Toronto city gazebo commons.
"You have to remember, when there's a tragedy, we run away," said Rhodes. "(First responders) run toward it and don't stop until the end."
Rhodes introduced the Rev. Raul Diaz, pastor of Toronto Cornerstone Church, who said although the resilience of America had been shaken that day, it wasn't defeated.
"We want to honor and remember the lives of our fellow citizens who lost their lives that day," said Diaz, adding "despite 11 years passing, we still grieve. All of us here gathered have compassion in our hearts for those victims."
Diaz said the shock of mass murder of civilians was unprecedented in our nation's history, and "these people were innocent bystanders. It was also an attack on our American way of life."
Diaz said he lived in New Jersey at the time directly across from New York City and its famous skyline. He said the attacks were aimed at crushing the nation's spirit, but "I submit to you, they failed. They wanted to tear apart the fabric of this great nation."
Diaz also said faith and belief in America and its ideals couldn't be defeated by fear and hate, and America "is a beacon of light that stands up to tyranny and oppression. We have overcome. The spirit of America has risen out of the ashes. America will always find a way, and our flag is still flying today."
City resident Beth Warren sang "Amazing Grace" before city fire Chief Frank McEwen took the podium to discuss the first responders that made the ultimate sacrifice that day.
"On Sept. 11, 2001, I stared at my TV in disbelief," said McEwen, adding he watched in horror as the second plane hit the Twin Towers.
McEwen said he earlier had met seven New York City firefighters during a seminar who subsequently died during the attacks, and "those seven firefighters still have their faces in my mind." McEwen said 343 firefighters died that day trying to save others, while nearly 100 police officers were killed in the line of duty. He said first responders do their jobs never knowing when it could be their final day.
"Those (first reposnders), knowing the odds against them, still tried to save people that day," he said. "Tragedies are the kind of thing you live with."
McEwen also hailed the citizens on United Flight 93 - which he said passed directly over Toronto - as heroes, who took down the plane rather than have terrorists fly it into another building. McEwen said first responders are "the lifeline for this town. We do what we have to do. I have to be the one who asks these guys to put their lives on the line.
"The firefighters in Toronto are the best in this valley," McEwen continued. "They are highly trained."
State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, told those gathered that "you think this would be something that only affects people in big cities. But the heartland (of America) cares."
Gentile said that "heroes were made that day. Our first reponders risked their lives and were truly American heroes."
Graham also sang "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless the U.S.A." before the lighting of memorial candles. The ceremony ended with the benediction led by Diaz; a salute to the dead by the Toronto American Legion Post 86 Firing Squad; and the playing of taps.