Sept. 11, 2001 is a day people remember for the ordinary details of life — and then the shattering horror of two hijacked planes flying into the World Trade Center in New York.
Hijacked planes also struck the Pentagon building, and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Those acts of terror cost 2,606 people their lives in the Twin Towers. Another 246 died in the four planes, including 19 terrorists. And 125 people died at the Pentagon.
On the 14th anniversary of 9/11, communities across the nation held thousands of memorial services to honor the victims who died — including first responders, who risked and lost their lives to save others.
About 50 people gathered at Zephyr Park in Zephyrhills for a solemn ceremony — “We Remember: 9/11 Memorial Service.” The Marine Corps League, Sgt. Maj. Michael Curtin, Detachment 1124 sponsored the event.
Curtin was a first responder with the New York City Police Department who died while saving lives at the World Trade Center.
“An attack of this magnitude, it calls for heroes, doesn’t it?” said Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield. “It calls for people to step up and go in where no else wants to go. These folks that went in these towers were heroes.”
Whitfield recalled that 9/11 was not Curtin’s first encounter with terrorism. In 1993, Curtin was with the NYPD’s first response team at the first World Trade Center bombing.
Two years later, Curtin went with a team of New York police officers to Oklahoma after Timothy McVeigh’s bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
“His history of service has said it all,” Whitfield said.
After a moment of silence, an honor guard fired a 21-gun salute, and 82-year-old Jerry Morel blew taps on the bugle.
Everyone can recall memories of a day that began with the steady thrum of normalcy.
Zephyrhills’ resident Meaghan Sammons drove to a local home improvement store to buy roof nails requested by her job supervisor.
When she got back, everyone was gathered around a television. Her first thoughts were of her father who drove a delivery truck near the World Trade Center.
“I tried to call him and I couldn’t get him,” she said. “You are numb. It didn’t hit right away, until you saw the second building coming down and the aftermath.”
She finally reached her father who had left the area before the attack.
Sammons brought her 11-year-old son Heath to the memorial service. He wore his Boy Scout uniform.
She wanted to honor the day and share in a moment of unity. And she said, “If history is not taught to younger generations, it will repeat itself. I hope this never repeats itself.”
State Rep. Danny Burgess was in the 10th grade on 9/11.
“This is very real. This is very raw,” he said.
But the day after, Sept. 12, also should be remembered, especially the moment when President George W. Bush called for unity as he stood on a mound of rubble at the Twin Towers, he said.
“Let’s remember that in the midst of all this, we all united. That’s what’s best about the American spirit,” Burgess said. “We saw so much love and compassion…It shouldn’t take such tragedy to pull us together as a country.”
World War II veteran Sal DiMartino, 92, served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines. He got a call from his daughter in California on 9/11, telling him to turn on his television.
People need to bring back the spirit that brought the nation together in World War II, he said. “That was when you were dedicated to your fellow man.”
Rod Rehrig Sr., recalls being at work at his real estate office when he saw the events unfold, also on television.
“It was really sad,” said Rehrig, who is the commandant for Detachment #1124 of the Marine Corps League. “All those lives wasted.”
But the memorial service can offer solace, he said.
“I think we have a little more peace of mind. We’re doing something out of respect for those who died. It strengthens people,” Rehrig said.
Published September 16, 2015