By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Can the memories of Sept. 11, 2001, somehow help a country pull through its existing struggles 19 years later?
Three speakers at Friday night’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony outside of Center Lake pavilion put the historic tragedy into perspective while also referencing the country’s existing challenges involving a worldwide pandemic and racial tensions.
For the nineteenth consecutive year, dozens of people gathered outside of the pavilion in Warsaw on Friday, Sept. 11, to remember the victims and the heroes and the impact of the terror attacks made on the United States.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, who gave his first 9/11 address in 2013 during his first year in office, was the keynote speaker Friday night.
Thallemer said he was touched by a conversation earlier in the day on Friday with a 21-year-old man who admitted he had no memory of the events 19 years ago.
More than ever, “We must all rely on history to tell the story of the pivot our nation took that day,” Thallemer said.
“Like all moments in history, as our country marches forward, as the years go by, as memory fades, the legacy of what happened that day will never go away,” he said.
Thallemer reflected on his visit a few years ago to the 9/11 memorial and museum at Ground Zero in New York City.
One of the images that stuck with him, he said, was of a heavily damaged ladder truck that was destroyed by falling debris from the twin towers.
“The heroism displayed by emergency responders and everyday citizens on that day redefined who and what a hero was from that moment forward,” Thallemer said Friday night as a distant wail of a fire truck could be heard in the distance.
Nineteen years later, emergency responders are facing new challenges that many might not have expected.
“Today, I think of medical professionals navigating the human challenges of COVID-19. I think of the uncertainties of our first responders with every single call they face in a world on edge brought about by the pandemic. And I think of the menace of the drug scrouge and the anger from a country on edge that challenges our police officers with every call they make,” he said.
The events 19 years ago changed history, Thallemer said.
“Sept. 11, 2001, gave us a new generation of American heroes and I thank God for that,” he said.
Ken Locke a veteran, also spoke and addressed the current impact on first responders.
So far this year, 99 police officers, 60 firemen, 900 medical personnel and 35 EMS responders have died in the line of duty, Locke said.
“All of them putting themselves in harm’s way,” Locke said.
Mike Cox, the event’s main organizer, focused some of his comments on the current challenges.
“Our nation seems so divided by all of this, it made me think back to Sept. 12, 2001, when our nation was so united by fear and patriotism,” Cox said.
“Today, with all of this going on, we have to ask: Have we forgotten?” he said.
The existing divisions, he said, could open the door for another attack.
“We need to be vigilant and united as a nation. Not divided,” he said.