9/11 remembered 10 years later at Wright Museum
15 United Airlines flight attendants celebrate their lost colleagues with poetry
|LT. COL. DEAN RONDEAU, U.S. Army Reserve, who is also second in command in the Wolfeboro Police Department, spoke at the 10th anniversary 9/11 service at the Wright Museum on Sunday about two heroes who embody the spirit of sacrifice needed to fight the war on terror as Moderator Jeff Adjutant looks on. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)|
September 15, 2011WOLFEBORO — More than 100 people filed into the second floor meeting room at the Wright Museum last Sunday, Sept. 11, in a memorial service honoring the victims of the 9/11/01 terrorists attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Penn. By the time the service began at noon there was standing room only.
Jeff Adjutant, an active member of the American Legion and Marine Corps League, organized the first memorial on the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002 and, with the help of his wife Susan, has been holding them every year since then in different locations.
In addition to the speakers at the service, there was a contingent of 15 United Airlines flight attendants, led by Wolfeboro resident Lindy Viscio, who had all been based in the New York area on Sept. 11, 2001, and half of whom were in the air when United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. United Flight 93, which flew out of Newark Airport and crashed as a result of passenger intervention in Shanksville, Penn., included many friends in the crew. The other two planes crashed by the terrorists were from American Airlines.
Wright Museum Executive Director Norman Stevens welcomed the assembly and offered a free copy of "We Will Not Forget: A National Book of Remembrance," a hardcover book compiled, written and published by Wolfeboro resident Charles W. Wibel in 2002 that lists and gives information on all of the victims of 9/11 attack and photos of the attack sites.
Stevens cited the excavation of Marathon where in 490 BC the first Persian invasion of Greece was stopped and 192 Athenians died defeating a much larger enemy army. The excavation recovered the bodies. "As long as we remember," he said, "they are not dead."
The assembly then stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star-Spangled Banner.
David Lindsay, retired pastor of the First Baptist Church and chaplin of the Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue Department, gave the invocation. He gave a prayer of appreciation for the innocent victims who faced death without a choice and the rescuers who did choose to intervene and gave up their lives. He asked God to give "the power of love to change the hearts of evil."
Adjutant asked participants whether they remember where they were and what they were doing on the following dates: Dec. 7, 1941 (the day Pearl Harbor was attacked), Nov. 22, 1963 (when President John Kennedy was assassinated), and Sept. 11, 2001. "These were days that will live in infamy," he said, "and will never be forgotten."
Wolfeboro Police Lt. and Army Reserve Lt. Col. Dean Rondeau spoke next, saying it was a difficult presentation for him since he has been deployed overseas twice since 9/11 and his son Derek is currently deployed in Kandahar Province Afghanistan. He said we no measure time in terms of pre-9/11 and post 9/11 events. He reminded the attendees that Pearl Harbor was a military target and the World Trade Center towers struck on 9/11 were not.
Rondeau spoke of two "great Americans." The first was "Sergeant R," who was one of his heroes. In civilian life this man earned a six-figure income in information technology in Washington State and had no military history in his family. After 9/11 he signed up for the Army Rangers and Rondeau met him in basic training. "He was not one of those gung-ho steely-eyed airborne soldiers I was used to seeing," Rondeau said. Training was hard for him but he struck with it and "he did a tremendous job keeping the troops connected." He came home safely and continues to serve in the Army Reserve.
The second hero was Tim Steel, his son's best friend, who went to West Point and volunteered to help out after Katrina in 2005. His son met Lt. Steel at Fort Benning and in March 2011 they deployed together to Afghanistan. "Three weeks ago he was killed in action by an IED. He leaves a wife and one-year-old daughter, Liberty. My son was devastated," Rondeau said.
"In order for these sacrifices to have meaning, we have to prosecute the war on terror to a conclusion. This is not the time to pull back. It will be a long war since it deals with 100 years of failed foreign policy." With Al Quaida weaker, he said now is the time to "push efforts to a successful conclusion."
Carroll County Sheriff and Army National Guard officer Chris Conley began his remarks by introducing Tom Fitzgerald, a retired New York City police officer, who was seated in the audience.
To Conley 9/11 "was an attack on the soul of America, but it showed our spirit," with victims helping victims and first responders going into the stricken buildings without hesitation. It also made an impression on the world. He related a story about an infantry colonel in Afghanistan who was asked by a tribesman if he had lost any relatives in the 9/11 attacks: this question awakened the sensibilities of the men in his command Conley said.
Wolfeboro resident Captain Robert Viscio, a retired Army helicopter pilot and commercial airline pilot who flew 757s and 767s internationally for North American Airline spoke next. He said that 9/11 was a very personal experience for him since he grew up in New York and, at one point in his career, flew sightseers around Manhattan for Donald Trump: after flying around the Statue of Liberty he would aim for Tower 2 as he returned to Manhattan and then flew over the twin towers. "I can still see them," he said.
Viscio also pointed out that as a military installation Pearl Harbor was "fair game" in a war but the World Trade Center was a civilian target. There were 500 more people killed on 9/11 than at Pearl Harbor and only 100 of the casualties at Pearl Harbor were civilians.
"We are dealing with cowards," he stated. "I believe we will be fighting these people through our grandchildren."
He pointed out that 343 firefighters, 323 NY City police and 337 Port Authority personnel died on 9/11 – about 1,000 first responders.
Viscio said, "I can never forgive how they turned something we loved [the airplanes] into weapons of mass destruction."
He concluded his remarks by quoting a toast made by John Daly: "To the SEALS who got bin Laden and to the sharks who ate him."
He then introduced the group of 15 United Airlines flight attendants who were seated in the front of the room. Eileen Neal read a poem entitled, "American, United," written by American Airlines employee Susan Moses (see accompanying text).
Wolfeboro's Linda Williams then read, in a tearful voice, the text of a United Airlines statement published shortly after the event:
"Monday, September 10.
"On Monday, a hose in my sink broke just when I needed to rush out the door and I thought life was being unfair.
"On Monday, when you asked people how they were doing, without much thought, or much contemplation, they replied 'fine' or 'good.'
"On Monday, the papers and the news magazines were filled with stories about the new fall TV schedule.
"On Monday, there were not many people in the religious section at the bookstore.
"On Monday, the American flag hung, for the most part, unnoticed at government buildings and at schools.
"On Monday, we passed strangers without much regard.
"On Tuesday, September 11, all that changed.
"On Tuesday, September 11, different things seemed important.
"On Tuesday, September 11, blissful naiveté was lost. Sanctity was mercilessly shaken.
"On Tuesday, September 11, somebody tried to take America apart.
"On Tuesday, September 11, America came together.
"On Tuesday, September 11, there were no Republicans, Democrats, yuppies, blue collars, or any other labels. There were only Americans.
"On Tuesday, September 11, strangers died for each other.
"On Tuesday, September 11, the best of the human spirit spit back into the eye of the worst.
"On Tuesday, September 11, America was knocked to its knees.
"On Tuesday, September 11, America got back up again."
The ceremony ended with the playing of "Taps," repeated as an echo, and a closing prayer from Pastor Lindsay "to thank God for ordinary Americans."
Captain Viscio then played the guitar while the assembly sang "God Bless America" twice, followed by "America the Beautiful."