Community gathers to commemorate 10 years since 9/11

September 11, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah High School Navy Junior ROTC members present flags as Issaquah police officers and Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters salute during a Sunday ceremony to commemorate 9/11. By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4 p.m. Sept. 11, 2011

If terror is the most vivid memory from Sept. 11, 2001, then the most forceful message on the 10th anniversary is about resilience.

In a series of solemn gestures, amid a ceremony steeped in symbolism, community leaders gathered beneath a crystalline sky Sunday to remember the 2,977 people lost in the attacks, and the more than 6,000 military personnel felled in Afghanistan and Iraq since then.

“This is a time to remember the victims of Sept. 11, as well as remember those who risk their lives every day to protect ours,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said in a stirring speech to the crowd assembled on the Issaquah Community Center lawn. “My hope — and it’s an ongoing one — is that we as a nation and as communities may live without fear and act without fear.”

The experience Sunday afternoon echoed a community ceremony from a decade ago. Stunned residents gathered on the same spot a decade ago for a sunset ceremony. The crowd at the 10th anniversary, about 200 people strong, did not match the attendance from then.

In the opening prayer, Eastside Fire & Rescue Chaplain Mike Ryan said 9/11 served as the catalyst for “this age of terror and these moments of remembrance” — a theme repeated throughout the remembrance ceremony.

The ceremony, and others in cities from coast to coast, acted as a bookend to calamitous decade stretching from a cloudless September morning. The citizens and leaders gathered outside on the unseasonably warm afternoon focused less on the attacks and more on the unity Americans forged in the restive days afterward.

“During such a dark time in our nation’s history, nonetheless we saw signs of hope, resilience and love, both throughout this country and here in Issaquah,” Frisinger said.

In the hours after the attacks, as signs pointed to al-Qaida terrorists as the perpetrators and a nation girded for war, local churches hosted services for people to mourn.

Veterans of Foreign Wars members, Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters and citizens gather on the Issaquah Community Center lawn Sunday to commemorate 9/11. By Warren Kagarise

“Emotions were running high that day, and those services gave people a place to start turning their fear and their anger into hope and appreciation for each other,” Frisinger said as jetliner rumbled overhead — a sound unheard in the days after 9/11 as planes sat idle under orders from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Bill Lokey, a leading emergency official responsible for managing the long-term recovery from the Nisqually earthquake in Washington before the attacks, reached the chaotic scene at ground zero days after the towers crumbled.

Lokey — accustomed to grim landscapes in areas impacted by natural and manmade disasters, including the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 — faced a scale of destruction unseen before. The rubble pile loomed taller than the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

“One of the things that struck a lot of us was, as a difference from Oklahoma City — where in the rubble there were desks and porcelain sinks and things like that — at 9/11, it was all twisted steel and dust,” he said at the Issaquah ceremony.

Boy Scouts in khaki-and-olive uniforms, Veterans of Foreign Wars members in pin-bedecked caps, and firefighters and police officers in dress uniforms — pressed and polished for the ceremony — mingled alongside attendees in ball caps and sunglasses to reflect the glare. Glassblowers from artbyfire created multicolored floats — etched to include a remembrance message — for attendees.

The ceremony included gestures made more familiar in the era since 9/11 — a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace,” Issaquah High School Navy Junior ROTC members firing off a booming 21-gun salute, and a tribute to emergency responders at the attack sites and in Issaquah.

“If it weren’t for the courage and the strength and the love that is shown by these people,” Frisinger said as firefighters and police officers sat in folding chairs in the rows closest to the stage, “we would not be able to live without trepidation in our own communities.”

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