ST. ALBANS CITY — Tears were shed and sirens blared at the 20th anniversary commemoration of Sept. 11, 2001, in Taylor Park on Saturday.
Hundreds of residents from throughout Franklin County gathered in Taylor Park to remember and honor those lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and those who continue to serve as first responders.
After a prayer offered by Pastor Jessica Moore, Todd Cosgrove, president of the Franklin County International Mutual Aid Association, recalled the day and the sacrifice made by first responders to rescue anyone they could after the Twin Towers fell in New York City.
“We must never forget the events of 9/11, 2001,” Cosgrove said. “As Americans we must stay vigilant against these terrorists, and if we see something, say something to our law enforcement partners to save lives.”
Mayor Tim Smith was at a Hampton Inn that day in Portland, Maine, watching the events unfold on a small television.
The event hit the nation in the heart so deeply, Smith said, that he watched communities come together like never before.
“What I remember were people waiting in long lines to give blood,” Smith said. “People were devastated and at a loss as to how to help. Giving blood was one of their ways to relieve their devastation.”
While on a boat in Casco Bay with his wife days after the attack, Smith said, he was astounded by the seas of people who blanketed the docks at each of the islands standing in solidarity, holding hundreds of candles into the air.
Town Selectboard Chair Brendan Deso recalled the attack as a moment of clarity when the nation came together instead of falling apart.
“Those who attacked us reminded us in the world that the worst of humanity is capable of committing terrible atrocities,” he said. “Those who responded to the buildings that were attacked and those on United Airlines Flight 93 reminded us in the world that the best of humanity will always prevail when put to the test.”
Other speakers at the event included Chris Herrick, Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner, St. Albans Town fire chief Harold Cross and Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) who spoke on behalf of Gov. Phil Scott’s office.
The Franklin County Honor Guard honored first responders, the military and their families with a traditional rifle salute before the St. Andrews Pipe Band of Vermont played God Bless America, and a folded American flag was presented to the St. Albans Historical Museum.
Suddenly, each one of the first responder trucks, cruisers, fire engines and ambulances from Montgomery, Georgia, Enosburg, St. Albans City, St. Albans Town, Sheldon, Fairfield, Swanton, Bakersfield and AmCare surrounding the park lit up in tribute.
The wild sirens and horns of each of the departments layered over one another in a song of their own, paying homage to the fallen and their communities.
A gargantuan American flag billowed from its ties atop the extended ladders of the yellow St. Albans Town fire engine and the deep crimson St. Albans City engine, curtaining Main Street and the Town and City firefighters who stood below. Slowly and silently, the ladders were lowered, and the firefighters received the great flag, gently rolling to retire the colors.
“Yes, today is a day of remembering,” Chief Cross said. “Remembering and continuing to promise to all of the 2,977 victims and their families that we will share their grief which affected each and every American. These four words, which are our nation’s promise to aid in our healing. We will never forget.”