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Plymouth residents mark a solemn anniversary

Accompanied by bagpipes, the solemn Plymouth 9-11 Memorial procession marched down Highland Street, past the Pease Public Library en route to the Town Common for community-wide observances on Sunday. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
September 14, 2011
PLYMOUTH—In the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, a spirit of unity and solidarity momentarily eclipsed our political, religious and cultural differences, as American citizens all across the country responded, with compassion, courage and heroism, to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and aboard a hijacked United Flight 93 which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

That same spirit was evident in abundance this past Sunday afternoon, as public officials, community and campus leaders, residents and students all came together to honor the memory of those who were lost on Sept. 11, and to recommit their lives to building a legacy that will be a fitting tribute to their sacrifice and service.

In her opening remarks, Plymouth Select Board Chairperson Valerie Scarborough likened the spirit of first responders who answered the call that day to the highest qualities of honor, courage and commitment that is shown by our military service men and women in battle.

On that day ten years ago, we lost 343 New York City firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York Police Officers and 37 Port Authority Police Officers. Hundreds more have suffered illness, or lost their lives from disease and injury in the years since the their heroic response on 9-11.

Their sacrifice has not been in vain.

Plymouth State University students contemplate the Wall of Remembrance, containing the names of all those who were lost on Sept. 11, 2001. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
Scarborough noted that while we mourn the loss of nearly 2,000 civilians at the World Trade Center, 179 people at the Pentagon and 44 heroes aboard United Flight 93, we also remember that as many as 25,000 people were led to safety that day with the assistance of brave New York City police and firefighters.

Turning her attention to the assembled contingent of local police, fire and rescue personnel from around the Pemi Baker Region, she praised their commitment to service.

"Thank you for your ongoing efforts to keep our community and campus safe," said Scarborough. "Each and every day, you show the dedication to preparedness that the 9-11 Commission said was the best way to honor the memory of those we lost on that day."

Representing the first responders' perspective, Lt. Scott Cathy from the Plymouth Fire Department spoke movingly of the call to service that motivates so many of his fellow firefighters, police officers and paramedics.

Representing his fellow First Responders, Lt. Scott Cathy from the Plymouth Fire Department speaks to the assembled crowd on the Plymouth Town Common during 9-11 Memorial Services this past weekend. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
"Some may consider the fire service a lowly profession," remarked Cathy. "But those of us who know the work of the firefighter understand that it is a noble calling. We all understand that a firefighter may lose his life in the course of doing his duty. When a man becomes a firefighter, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished... Everything he does from that day on is just in the line of work. When we joined the profession, we were inspired to do the right thing. We chose to live a life of service. We chose to put ourselves in harm's way. I'm not sure it is really a choice. It is a calling. It is a belief in serving a cause grater than oneself."

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001 as a "day when hatred overcame human connection," Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen also commended the courage and heroism of those who responded to save so many lives.

"The very worst and the very best of the human spirit was in evidence on that day," said Steen. "Today, whatever our politics, we truly understand that the global is also local and deeply personal. The greatest memorial we can offer may be what we do after today and within ourselves, by believing in and actively working toward a future where the warmth of human connection more often overcomes hatred, so that fewer good people need to be remembered in this way."

Steen invited community members to record their feelings and memories on the Wall of Remembrance that had been constructed for the occasion. The names of the people who were lost on 9-11 were written on one side of the Wall, with space for commentary from the public reserved for the opposite side.

She then invited everyone to attend what was universally acknowledged to be a powerful artistic tribute in music with a Statewide Collaborative Concert at the Silver Center at PSU immediately following the ceremony, where listeners heard a stunning performance of Karl Jenkins' "Armed Man," Jonathan Santore's "Later," with choirs and full orchestra conducted by Dan Perkins, sponsored jointly by the Common Man and PSU Student Life.

The afternoon program concluded with a shared Community Meal on the Plymouth State University campus in front of the Hartman Union Building, where Plymouth residents and PSU students alike enjoyed a meal and a time of fellowship together.

Other participants in Sunday's Observances included Rev. Leo A. LeBlanc from St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Rev. Sarah Stewart from the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Boy Scout Troop 56, the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, and the Graham Highlanders Pipe Band from St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The National Anthem was sung by PSU student Michael Dodge, and "Taps" was played by PSU student Bobby Salerno.

The Memorial Ceremony on the Plymouth Common concluded dramatically with the release of white doves, an ancient symbol of peace, above the heads of the assembled citizens, and the military service men and women, police officers, firefighters and other public officials who work so hard to protect us all.

Varney Smith
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