Remembering 9/11

Visitors and citizens of the city gathered before sunset at Winslow’s Remembrance Garden to join in a ceremony honoring not only those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, but those who came together.

Many dignitaries from across the state were on hand to share their own prayers and memories with the crowd.

“This is not a celebration,” Mayor Jim Boles told those in attendance. “This is a memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11, so that you and I could enjoy the blessings we hold as citizens of the United States of America.”

Dave Hart, pastor of the Warren Avenue Church of Christ delivered the invocation, followed by a musical selection performed by the Winslow High School Bulldog Band under the direction of Dave Blanchard.

“We are blessed tonight to have many dignitaries,” Boles said before inviting state Sen. Jack Brown to the stage.

“I’ve been to every one of these memorial services,” Brown began. “My wife and I had a chance to visit the site of the Twin Towers and to view the deep hole where these buildings once stood, the buildings wrecked all around; all of the tributes left by visitors, and tears welled up in my eyes.”

Brown credited his wife for insisting that they visit the site in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed.

“As I walked around (among other visitors to the site) I saw the messages left there and I was reminded that this is a great country that we live in,” he said.

Brown encouraged members of the crowd to remember this and to be part of it by voting.

“We all need to vote every year, every chance we get,” Brown said.

Jake Flake, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, compared two visits to this same site at two separate presidential conventions.

“My wife and I had the opportunity of being on top of one of the Twin Towers,” Flake said. “On September 11, 2001, she called me to the television. I saw the tail end of a plane sticking out of one of the towers, and I thought to myself, ‘what kind of joke is this?’ While I was watching, another plane came in and hit the second tower.”

Flake returned from the Republican Convention, held in New York City, last week. While there, he and his wife visited the site once again.

“We saw a big hole in the ground, where 2,769 American people lost their lives. This was the largest amount of lives lost here on American soil in a terrorist attack.”

The experience has changed his life, Flake told onlookers.

“I came back here a stronger American. This was a Republican convention but because it was held in New York City, it was an American convention.”

Flake, who had attended a similar ceremony in his hometown of Snowflake, said that ceremonies were being held all across America — and praised this sharing of emotion as a means to make all Americans better patriots and better Americans.

Rep. Bill Konopnicki (District 5) rose to offer his own gratitude and pride in being an American.

Kerry Ballard, the Vice Mayor of Snowflake, congratulated Mayor Boles and the city of Winslow for their efforts in honoring the victims and survivors of 9/11.

“I’m impressed that the city was able to acquire the pillars that you see here,” Ballard said. “We are proud to be on the same river as Winslow, and are grateful to those who have given so much to the nation.”

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson rose to express his appreciation to the city of Winslow for its support and contribution to the workforce of his city, before expressing his own memories of the terrorist attacks.

“I remember that day well. I saw the north tower in flames. Fear and terror still burns in my heart, but this event brought us all together. Members of all communities and ethnicity stood together for the first time in many years.”

Fireman Gilbert Moncayo reminded those gathered that as the world watched images of people running out of the burning buildings, there were also people running in before reading a fireman’s prayer.

Police Lt. Roger Conatser also rose to greet the crowd and express his pride in the city of Winslow and of this country.

“Ever since I found out I was to give this speech, I wondered whether it should be solemn or upbeat,” he said.

In considering this question, Conatser came to a realization.

“Whether I said something solemn or upbeat, what I said is not as meaningful as all of us who took time out of their busy lives to honor those who (lost their lives) on September 11.

Lt. Jim Sepi cited September 11 as a day when 19 men boarded planes in order to visit death and destruction on the American people. He described this terrorist attack as “nothing short of evil.”

“That is the day we learned of the hatred they hold for us. But we also saw the best of human nature where members of Flight 93 confronted their captors and prevented the attack on the White House.”

This action, Sepi said, prevented the loss of many more lives.

“9-11” set high standards of professionalism that we have all come to expect from our police and fire departments. The city of Winslow should expect no less.”

Mary Alice Hayes, Brenda Hayes and Janice Walters performed “God Bless America” as the crowd awaited the arrival of the new flag.

Boles explained that at the past two ceremonies, the new flag had been brought in by helicopter. This year, he said, the flag was being brought in by fire truck.

“We thought it would be only appropriate that the fire department should bring the flag in this year,” he said.

The lights of the fire truck and escort vehicles from the Winslow Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety punctuated the dusk as the emergency response vehicles slipped down the exit ramp, past the Flying J and into the crowd.

From this cavalcade, the flag was delivered to an honor guard and marched to the steps of the memorial.

An honor guard, including Cort Marshall of Winslow’s VFW Post 3076, removed the flag from the Remembrance Garden’s flagpole, folded it, and presented it to John Ortega, who recently returned to Winslow from Iraq. Later, Ortega addressed the crowd.

“I want to thank Winslow for the support given to my family while I was in Iraq,” Ortega said.

Firefighter Chris Jack and police officer Sam Short raised the new flag as Boles asked the attendees for a moment of silence in honor of those who had lost their lives three years earlier.

The silence was broken by the harmonized voices of Hayes, Hayes and Walters as they sang the National Anthem.

Judi Gill approached the microphone to read the names of those serving in the Armed Forces, accompanied by the high school band.

Strong winds prevented the planned candle lighting ceremony; instead flags were presented to representatives from three of the branches of service.

Dale Hancock presented the closing prayer; afterwards, Boles thanked all of the participants for their support and energy. The crowd quietly dispersed, perhaps lost in their own memories of where they were “that day.”

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