Tonawanda News — On a bright, sunny morning — not so unlike the morning 12 years ago — members of the City of Tonawanda Fire Department, Police Department and others gathered Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and remember those who died that day.
Several dozen city fire and police personnel, as well as North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham, City of Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi and a few city residents, stood near the memorial ("in honor of the memory of those who have answered their last alarm") outside the hall on William Street for the brief ceremony. Several of the city's yellow fire trucks, draped in black for the occasion, were parked nearby.
Chaplain Bill Miles gave the opening prayer, touching upon themes of memory and sacrifice.
"Each of us know exactly where we were on this day 12 years ago," he said. "Everyone knows exactly what happened. That's why we gather here today. So that we never forget those who ran into a building when everyone else was running out."
The U.S. flag was moved to half-staff as the group watched in silence. Afterward, Chaplain Sam Ciffa lead them in a series of statements and responses.
"When we remember the stockbrokers, office workers, maintenence workers, bystanders, window-washers and all the others who worked together so valiantly to help each other, we can say together ..." he started.
"We remember great courage," the group responded.
"When we recall the firefighters who rushed upstairs as most everyone else was racing out, we can say together ..."
"We remember selfless service."
"When we recall the police officiers who stood to protect and defend the people and performed their duties until the towers came crashing down on top of them, we can say together ..."
"We remember selfless sacrifice for the safety of others."
Afterward, Chaplain Rick Oates read the Firefighters 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my chief; he has chosen me to serve," followed by the tolling of a fire-truck bell by Chaplain Tim Newman.
A moment of silence was observed at 9:59 a.m., the moment the South World Trade Center tower fell followed by the benediction by Chaplain Jeremy Lopez.
The attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and aboard United Airlines Flight 93 resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. Among that number were 340 firefighters, a chaplain and two paramedics from the New York City Fire Department, 23 officers from the New York City Police Department and 37 officers from the Port Authority Police Department.
City Fire Chief Charles Stuart said that, as time passes, it's important to remember the sacrifices made that day.
"People forget. Life goes on," he said. "For us, it's personal."