85 Gather for 9/11 Remembrance in Saline

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On the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, about 85 people gathered in front of Saline City Hall to remember the attacks, the heroism and sacrifice, and the national unity that followed.

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On 9/11, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes. They flew two of the planes into the World Trade Centers in New York and one into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US military in Arlington, Va. A fourth plane, headed toward Washington D.C., crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn. Many Americans were watching the scene on television when the World Trade Center towers collapsed later that day. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.

Police closed Harris Street between McKay Street and the City Hall parking lot. Speakers talked from a podium, adorned with the fire department logo and placed in front of a Saline fire engine. About 85 people gathered for the ceremony.

Retired US Army Lt. Col. Eric Engelmeier, board president of the Saline American Legion Post 322, was one of the keynote speakers. After 9/11, Engelmeier served in Iraq and Afghanistan and at the Guantanamo Bay  Naval Base detention camp. Engelmeier noted the younger generation didn't live through 9/11 and might not understand why so many Americans solemnly mark the day.

"We were all shocked. If you remember that day, nobody knew what to do. If you look at our high school students, they weren't born yet. So we need to keep that remembrance going," Engelmeier said. He added the day is remembered today as many once recalled the Japanese sneak attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base that brought the US into World War II.

The way people of days past could tell you where they were when John F. Kennedy was killed, or Pearl Harbor was attacked, people old enough can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the 0/11 attacks.

"I can ask anyone here, 'What did you do on your last birthday,' and you probably don't remember. But if I ask you, 'Where were you on 9/11, 2001?' everyone in this audience knows exactly where they were," Engelmeier said.

Engelmeier was the first to speak of a theme that was common during the 23-minute ceremony.

"That was a day that caused us to come together as a nation," he said. "There was no bickering. There was no fighting. There were no politics involved. This country came together and did what we had to do to help those families who lost their families in this horrible event."

While much has been made over the length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Engelmeier said US soldiers made important sacrifices for this country.

"When was the last time you heard of Al-Qaeda," Engelmeier said.

Police Chief Jerrod Hart and Fire Department Lt. Brandon Sears made remarks on behalf of Saline's emergency workers. 343 firefighters and 72 police officers died on 9/11. Hart said he vividly remembered the disbelief and shock that turned into an immense sadness. Hart said first responders continue to die today as a result of exposure to dust and debris from the collapse of the  World Trade Center towers. Since 9/11, Hart said, the number of police officers who've died as a result of 9/11 has grown tenfold. Like Engelmeier, he spoke about the national unity inspired by the attacks.

"Like you, I remember Sept. 12. Despite our differences, we came together to defend our homeland.  The attacks led many young women and men to join our armed services.  During the post-9/11 wars, thousands of women and men made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and I am grateful for them, and all who made it home safely, but must now endure the physical and mental scars of war," Hart said.

Hart challenged people to determine how they would honor those who died, and those who carried the scars of war.

Hart used the platform to criticize the way some use social media to spread hate and misinformation and divide Americans and push us "away from that Sept. 12 feeling."

"Is this how we choose to honor the victims of 9/11 and those who sacrificed so much in the ensuing wars?" Hart said. "Let us find a way to champion each other, to love and care for one another and drive hatred from our communities. After all, hatred was the precipice for these attacks."

Lt. Brandon Sears read remarks from Fire Chief Jason Sperle, who could not be in attendance. He said firefighters reported for work that day like they did every day.

"What they didn't know was that their lives, their views and their careers would forever be changed," Sears said. "When tragedy hit and everyone was glued to their televisions and radios, every firefighter in this country wanted to respond to that call. As the world watched, people headed down those same stairs that every firefighter was going up."

He said silence fell on every fire station in America when the towers collapsed.

Sears said fire stations, often overlooked as people went about their regular day, became focal points in American communities, as people stopped in with gifts and to offer words of gratitude.

"That once overlooked station was not only a place of sadness, but now also a place of hope," Sears said.

Like Hart, Sears spoke of the importance of Sept. 12.

"While 9/11 was a day of sadness, the hope I felt on 9/12 carried me throughout my career," he said. "While we mourn the loss of those killed on that dreadful day, I like to think their spirit is what gave us that warm sunlight, feeling of hope and love on Sept. 12."

Sears called on people to put aside differences and remember how Americans treated each other on Sept. 12.

Saline Mayor Brian Marl said the nearly 3,000 people murdered and 25,000 injured on 9/11 would be prayed for and never forgotten. Marl called on Salinians and Americans to recommit themselves to the fight for freedom and applaud and recognize all those who serve causes greater than themselves.

"I do not believe freedom-loving people can be threatened, terrorized or deterred from our common cause - the ongoing struggle that every one of God's children lives a life of their own choosing," Marl said. "Freedom requires sacrifice. Those who fight for justice and opportunity must remain vigilant and strong."

Tom Zimmerman, the senior pastor and First United Methodist Church, offered the invocation prayer. He said we were pausing today to remember the great losses and courageous acts from Sept. 11.

"We trust that you will bring beauty out of the ashes of our darkest day," Zimmerman said.

David Vaughn provided a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Pastor Joe Polzin, of Christ Our King Lutheran Church gave the benediction prayer. He prayed for the protection and support of armed forces, police, fire and health workers. He also prayed for peace

Attendees also included Saline Area Schools Superintendent Steve Laatsch, Board of Education Trustee Kandace Jones and Saline City Councillors Janet Dillon, Dean Girbach  and Dawn Krause and city manager Colleen O'Toole.

Saline firefighter Sean Payeur was at Saline Middle School when 9/11 happened. The stories of heroism - about the firefighters who rushed into the towers as everyone ran out - inspired his career choice.

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To this day, Payeur is both inspired and saddened by 9/11.

"To be honest, I don't like 9/11. It's a sad day. I'm thankful that we remember the heroes who stepped up that day, but it's a somber day. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a feeling as soon as I came in this morning. It's different," Payeur said. "It's a tough day. But I want to move forward and give these people the proper respect they deserve."

Saline resident Carol Osterling remembers where she was on 9/11. She was teaching third-grade students in Wayne-Westland schools. It was one of the scariest days of her career. The school brought a television into the teacher's lounge and allowed teachers, one at a time, to view what was going on. The school day continued and teachers did not talk to the students about the day's events. Throughout the day, worried parents arrived to pick up their children. The remaining students were left wondering what was going on.

"It was a sad and scary experience," Osterling said.

Osterling was happy to see the city hold the remembrance ceremony.

"It's of great importance, not only for those who we lost, but for our children who need to understand our history and to understand what happened, and how our country came together to be the United States again," Osterling said.

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