QUINCY — September 11 will never be just another date on the calendar. Patriot Day, a holiday born from tragedy, will be marked on calendars to remind future generations, at least in the U.S. What happened on that Tuesday morning will be remembered around the world, however, even though the attacks happened on American soil.
In Quincy on Saturday morning, representatives from the Quincy Fire Department, Quincy Police Department, and Adams County EMS filled the lot at City Hall to commemorate those events from two decades ago. Vehicles of those men and women lined Maine Street directly in front of the segment of Harris Broadcast’s TV antenna from the North Tower that was placed ten years as part of the city’s memorial.
The memorial service began with lowering the national, state, and city flags at the City Hall courtyard to half-staff. Next were a prayer and remembrance from Rev. Steven Arisman, pastor at St. Francis Solanus Parish. Rev. Arisman recalled being in seminary in St. Louis on that day, and his classmates using his phone to contact friends or family they had that worked in at the World Trade Center.
“One of them, their alarm clock hadn’t gone off, so they were running late to work,” Arisman shared. “One of them was working on the other side of the Pentagon.” These are just two of the stories of those who escaped the fate of nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that morning.
The theme of the commemoration was “Where were you when...?” Stories were shared by George “Rick” Cate of the Adams County EMS, Steven Peters from the Quincy Fire Department, and Zach Bemis of the Quincy Police Department.
Bemis said he remembered watching the events unfold on TV as a junior in high school.
“I remember feeling called to serve,” Bemis said. He spent time in the military, including deployments overseas where he lost comrades in the war that has only recently ended. After his military service, Bemis chose to continue serving as a law enforcement officer.
QFD Chief Bernie Vahlkamp spoke of the men and women of the first responder community that responded in New York that didn’t make it home, including police, fire, ambulance, and port authority officers.
Vahlkamp explained the ringing of the bell ceremony. In the community of fire fighters, the ringing of the bell represents the call to alarm, the end of the emergency, and honors for those who didn’t return. The peel of the bell rang out through the courtyard before the playing of taps.
On hand for the ceremony were Quincy Mayor Mike Troup, and former Mayor John Spring, who was one of those responsible for bringing a piece of the fallen towers back to Quincy where it was constructed with the piece of the antenna.