Jeannette Ross photos
It has been 17 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the drive to remember those lost has never wavered. That was evident in Tuesday’s remembrance ceremony at Wilton fire headquarters, one of many that took place across the country.
Neither the cool, cloudy weather nor the number of intervening years dampened the turnout — indeed many speakers commented it was the largest turnout in years as more than 50 people, not including uniformed personnel, filled the seats and stood near the fire trucks parked outside the firehouse.
After bagpiper Drew Kennedy led a police color guard and complement of firefighters, police officers and EMS volunteers, Capt. Jim Blanchfield led the proceedings. He noted that beyond the nearly 3,000 people who perished that day, more than 1,100 who were in lower Manhattan at that time have since been diagnosed with cancer as a result of the toxins at Ground Zero. The fire service, police and EMS he said, have seen more than 1,400 rescue workers who responded to the scene die.
Closer to home, he said, “five Wilton families, who because of the terrible events that day, never had their loved ones come home ever again,” as he listed those who died in the Twin Towers: Edward Fergus, Peter C. Fry, John Henwood, John F. Iskyan and Edward P. York. A memorial at the firehouse honors them.
Noting that memories can fade, “that’s why today, we consciously remember those events … We put faces and memories to the numbers. We remember those lost in our minds and in our hearts,” he said.
Fire Chief Ronald Kanterman recalled some anecdotes from that day, of friends, family and acquaintances, some of whom lived and some who died. But he also focused on the present, and, noting that this will be his last 9/11 ceremony as chief since his contract is up June 30, 2019, he reminded Wilton it has an emergency services department that includes fire, police, WVAC (Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps), and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) “who serve every day, in 105 degrees and five degrees, under all conditions. They do it well, they care to a fault, they will go the extra mile for a perfect stranger. I ask you take care of them as they do you.”
Other speakers included First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice who read the poem, If They Could Speak by Roseanne Pellicane, written in honor of the 343 firefighters who died in New York City, and Police Capt. John Lynch, who said the events of 2001 could have “undermined what we as Americans stand for; however, we choose to stand together and work toward peace and unity as a nation and as neighbors.” WVAC President John Miscioscia reminded the audience Wilton’s emergency services is ready to serve whenever the need arises.
Father Reggie Norman of Our Lady of Fatima offered a prayer of thanks for the work first responders do “so unselfishly.” He then offered a personal comment, saying people ask him if he is bothered by the sirens since he lives across the street.
“No, they don’t bother me, they comfort me,” he said. “When I see the men and women rolling out I make the sign of the cross and I pray for them.”
Firefighter Michael Pryor and Capt. Brian Elliott raised the flag to half-staff, there was a moment of silence, and Lt. Bill Wilson sang the National Anthem. He closed the ceremony with God Bless America.