It was a somber Wednesday evening as residents and officials from Wallingford and Meriden remembered and honored those who lost their lives 12 years ago on Sept. 11.
Both Wallingford and Meriden held remembrance ceremonies on the 12th anniversary of 9/11. Two planes crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, another place crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In a matter of hours, 2,977 people lost their lives.
Wallingford residents gathered in front of Town Hall, where a 9/11 remembrance took place. The ceremony, organized by the town’s Fire Department, Public Celebrations Committee and Recreation Department, included various speakers, including Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and Dan Holdridge, author of “Surviving September 11th” and a survivor of the Pentagon attack.
“We must remember not always what we can see,” Dickinson said to the crowd gathered in front of Town Hall, “but what we can feel.”
Speaking of those who lost their lives, Dickinson said “we want them to know that we remember them,” their families and the examples they set in their lives.
Ryan McCoy, who was 5 years old on 9/11, described how one day changed the entire country and the whole world. Despite what happened that day, “we stood up one more time, stronger than ever,” he said.
Holdridge is from North Stonington. He was at the Pentagon for business on Sept. 11.
As he read about the attacks on the World Trade Center on his phone, he asked his colleague “what’s next, the Pentagon?” — eerily foreshadowing what was soon to come.
“Three, two, one. Boom. The blast went off. It picked Bobby and I up and threw us a great distance and the building fell down on top of us,” Holdridge said. “I thought I died.”
He emphasized how everyone has an “Erin Anderson” inside of them — the woman who left her home “because she felt like she had to help her fellow countrymen” and brought Holdridge and his colleague to the hospital.
“Just by being here tonight and honoring this day, you remember what’s most important. That in America, we may get knocked down, but we get back up. We may take some pretty bad hits from people that have negativity and hatred in their hearts, but goodness always wins. It always, always wins,” Holdridge said. “No matter what the challenge is. No matter what we’re faced with — and we’ve seen it since 9/11 in the Boston marathon and not too far from here in Newtown, Connecticut — we see what hatred causes and we see the greatness in America right following that. And that’s what makes America so great.”
Holdridge travels around the country giving talks, including talks to children. Teaching them about peace at a young age encourages them “to solve problems with handshakes, not hand grenades,” he said.
Meriden officials gathered at New Life Church, on High Hill Road, in Wallingford, for a 9/11 remembrance service.
Before being admitted, congregants gathering in the café area outside the worship hall were in lighthearted spirits. Conversations about the start of school, summer vacations and Syria filtered through the room.
Once the sanctuary doors opened, however, the din subsided as the solemnity of the occasion settled over the crowd.
The ceremony began with a remembrance video featuring spliced news clips that depicted the shock that dawned on Americans all over the country on Sept. 11, 2001, as they learned of the horrific attacks.
The Rev. Will Marotti delivered a somber greeting to the congregation. He said the church was fulfilling a promise it made after the attacks to never forget to observe the tragic day.
The church has commemorated the events of 9/11 every year since, Marotti said.
Several dignitaries shared personal reflections about the devastating moment in American history.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman told the audience that she was married on Sept. 11, 1966, but she and her husband no longer celebrate the date as their anniversary “because there’s something bigger to remember.”
Meriden Fire Chief Kenneth Morgan appealed to the crowd to never forget the heroism that was shown by emergency personnel and ordinary citizens on that fateful morning.
Meriden Deputy Mayor Matt Dominello exhorted those present not to leave after the service and treat the evening as if it were just another night.
Meriden’s retired fire chief, Jim Trainor, praised the church and its congregation for continuing to hold the annual remembrance ceremony. “I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten,” about the importance of the date, he said, “but not the people of New Life.”
Interspersed among the officials’ remarks, the church worship band performed mid-tempo but tonally appropriate songs that conveyed a hopeful defiance toward the country’s enemies past and present.
Among the service’s most reverent moments was a presentation of colors ceremony by members of the South Meriden Fire Department, led by a kilted bagpipe player.
Members of the Meriden and Wallingford police and fire departments were also in the audience, as well as several Meriden city councilors.
Many of the Wallingford police and firefighters came directly from the town’s official remembrance ceremony that had begun an hour earlier.