GALENA — Saturday, Sept. 11 marked 20 years since the 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil. In remembrance of that day, Galena has held a ceremony every year to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
Galena’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony was started in 2002 by the late Harry Pisapia, a longtime mayor who was active in the Galena Volunteer Fire Company.
Pisapia pledged never to forget, and Galena has had a remembrance ceremony every year since the first anniversary. Even after Pisapia retired, Mayor John Carroll has made good on the promise.
Last year, the event was held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s event was once again in the firehouse parking lot at twilight. The event started just after 7 p.m. and continued into dusk.
Carroll said this year’s ceremony had the most attendees he had ever seen.
Members of the fire companies in Kennedyville and Rock Hall attended the ceremony, as well as other first responders, veterans, local residents and public officials like Kent County commissioners Ron Fithian and Tom Mason, Del. Jay Jacobs, Rock Hall Mayor Dawn Jacobs, Galena council members Jack Duhamell and Sarah Merrell, other town staff, and former council members Frank Bogdan, Betty Carroll and Bill Blake.
Blake helped organize the first ceremonies alongside Pisapia. When Carroll took the helm, Blake was his connection to those past events.
“Thinking back 20 years, I think we all turned on the TV this morning and watched the ceremonies throughout the country and all of the events that unfolded, and it doesn’t get any easier. Every year you watch that again and you think back to ‘where were you?’” Carroll said during his opening remarks. “It’s been a long 20 years and I think we have a lot to honor and remember.”
Rick Koch was the keynote speaker.
“Before we talk about 9/11, let’s talk about 9/12 of 2001,” Koch said. “You couldn’t buy a flag, they were sold out. Everybody wanted to support what happened.”
Koch spoke of the importance of loving America and appreciating those who serve in the military.
Koch said he was working in Cecil County on Sept. 11, 2001, and talked about how everything was shut down because nobody knew what was going on.
“We talk about those numbers often, we talk about the 3,000 (people who died that day), the 343 (first responders who died), but since then there’s been others that have died from the effects of 9/11 — respiratory effects — but more importantly, mental health problems,” he said. “We forget that we are human.”
Koch talked about the importance of looking out for one another and making sure people get the help they need.
“One hundred and two minutes changed our lives forever,” Koch said. “What did you do today in that 102 minutes that could have changed your lives as well?”
Koch said that 40% of the people who died on 9/11 still need to be identified 20 years later.
Following Koch’s speech, Carroll read the timeline of events on 9/11. It took him just under eight minutes.
“Every year when I read this, there’s different sections in here that make me kind of choke up. Because you remember where were you at that moment in time when that event happened and you saw that on TV or you heard that on the radio,” Carroll said.
“It is strange that sometimes you can’t even remember what happened yesterday, but it’s real easy to remember exactly what happened 20 years ago. It’s funny how your mind works,” Duhamell said at the start of his presentation.
Duhamell spoke about the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which has a 9/11 Never Forget mobile exhibit that travels around the country to educate people about what happened that day.
The foundation was started by the family of Stephen Siller, a firefighter assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1. On Sept. 11, 2001, Siller had just finished his shift when he got word over the scanner that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Siller returned to Squad 1 to get his gear, and drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which had already closed for security purposes.
“Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others,” the Tunnels to Towers website states.
Duhamell and his family saw the exhibit at the North East Branch of the Cecil County Public Library in mid-August.
“If it’s in your area, and you have the chance to visit it, it’s well worth the visit,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to visiting New York City as you can get without actually being there.”
Duhamell said he would like to see the exhibit come to Kent County, and hopes towns and the county will contribute funds.
As has become tradition at Galena’s ceremony, there was a final call, which Carroll said was “for first responders who answered the call that day and lost their lives trying to save others.”
The ceremony ended with the crowd singing “God Bless the USA.”
Washington College also observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with a sunrise flag-lowering ceremony at the flagpole on the campus green at 6:42 a.m.
Ringing of the McLain Victory Bell outside of Cain Gym followed by a moment of silence could be heard six times throughout the morning to mark significant moments from that day:
• 8:46 a.m. to mark Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower.
• 9:03 a.m. in recognition of Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower.
• 9:37 a.m. when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon
• 9:59 a.m. for the collapse of the South Tower.
• 10:03 a.m. to remember Flight 93 crashing into a field near Shanksville, Pa.
• 10:28 a.m. to mark the collapse of the North Tower.
“The terrifying impact of that day is still impossible to describe, but it is evident in the way that it continues to touch us all in different ways,” Washington College President Mike Sosulski wrote in a campus-wide email on Thursday, Sept. 9. “As impossible as it seems to those who bore witness to these events, 20 years have now gone by. Life has gone on. And yet, this date still holds within it the memories and that sorrow that we collectively felt in the aftermath of these attacks.
“There is a reverence to this date, and as much as it’s a reminder of the pain, I’d like to hope it may also serve as a reminder of a time when we stood together as a community, united in mutual support of each other. We forgot about our differences for a time, bonded in the spirit of strength, empathy and resilience,” the email states.
The Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company hung a large American flag from the ladder truck in remembrance of 9/11.
The firehouse in Rock Hall displayed an American flag on its ladder truck and held moments of silence at 8:46, 9:03, 9:37, 9:59, 10:07 and 10:28 a.m.
A member of the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company dressed in gear and carried an American flag from the firehouse to the Rock Hall Police Department and gathered a crowd during his procession.