It’s been nearly a decade and a half since hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon and one crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
But about 70 people turned out Friday morning with police, fire and government officials on the lawn of Columbus City Hall to reflect on the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
While some gazed at the 25-foot American flag displayed from two 100-foot crossed aerial fire ladders, others noted how the weather — blue skies and mild temperatures — Friday in Columbus seemed identical to the day when members of al-Qaida carried out the attacks 14 years ago in New York.
Jacqueline Sabatino shook her head as she observed how the crowd had thinned from similar ceremonies held in 2011 — on the 10-year anniversary — and last year.
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“Too much emphasis on sports and money,” Sabatino said in regard to prevailing priorities and media coverage. “Things that really matter, like the wars? Most folks aren’t even concerned.”
Central Middle School eighth-graders had covered the City Hall lawn with 2,977 flags — one for each victim in the attack. Following the half-hour ceremony, local officials accommodated those who wished to place a flag themselves in the grass.
While much of the ceremony focused on the 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who died in the line of duty 14 years ago, the Rev. Patrick Galligar of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church also recalled the millions of other lives that were touched that day.
One out of every five Americans knew someone who was either killed or hurt during the attacks, according to the Encyclopedia of 9/11.
“We know people all across this nation who have been impacted by this tragedy,” said Galligar, who serves as chaplain for the Columbus Police Department. “Both by the immediate impact and the lasting impact it has had on this nation, changing us forever.”
The attacks were described by Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown as the most cowardly and despicable of acts because they targeted innocent civilians who had never taken an oath to stand in harm’s way.
“Today, our battles are far from over, but our spirit is unwavering and our freedom is enduring,” the mayor said.
One of the most touching moments of Friday’s ceremony came at 8:46 a.m., the exact time of the first attack on the World Trade Center.
That’s when Bartholomew County 911 dispatcher Patrick Maguire delivered what Brown described as the “last call to service” for the emergency responders who never returned home that day.
Seconds before speaking from the dispatch center near Illinois and Cherry streets, Maguire said, he felt moved as he watched television coverage of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stepping out of the White House to observe a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims.
In Columbus, sobs could be heard in the audience as a single emergency siren sounded following the solemn dispatch.
In his closing prayer, Columbus Fire Department chaplain Ron Bridgewater reminded the audience how former Bank of America employee Marcy Borders, a resident of New York City, died three weeks ago at the age of 42.
Borders succumbed to cancer that some believe was the result of inhaling dust of the crumbling World Trade Center 14 years ago.
“Lives are still being lost and touched by this tragic event,” said Bridgewater, the senior minister at East Columbus Christian Church.
The service was opened and closed by the Southern Indiana Pipes and Drums, as well as the Columbus Police and Fire Honor Guard.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, at 08:46 hours, events on this day changed our lives forever. In honor and memory of courageous firefighters, police officers, paramedics and citizens, we shall be forever grateful for the selfless sacrifices they have given to this country. We will continue to remember the heroes of 9/11 and be forever grateful for the men and women from our military and public safety organizations who continue to guard our freedom.”
Radio broadcast to all emergency responders by Bartholomew County 911 dispatcher Patrick Maguire at 8:46 a.m. Sept. 11, 2015.
- Total number killed in Manhattan: 2,753
- Total number killed at Pentagon: 184
- Total number killed in United 93 crash in Pennsylvania: 40
- Total number of identified remains to date: 1,640 of 2,977 (55 percent of all victims.)
- Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115
- Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609
- Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
- Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20
- Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of 9/11: 422,000
Source: Encyclopedia of 9/11 and CNN.