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American Legion, County Veterans Council Hold 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

Pictured is Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone speaking at the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Mayville on Saturday. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

MAYVILLE – In a somber ceremony, various governmental officials, county officials, veterans and others gathered to remember and honor those who were killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a field in western Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. This year, the gathering marked the 20th anniversary of the attack, drawing common themes from several speakers of unity and remembrance.

Susan Rowley, Blue Star Mothers Lake Erie Chapter president, said she was honored to speak on behalf of the military at the event, and that her son has served in the military for the past 15 years. Rowley said the past 20 years have been difficult for everyone.

“So, where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day that looked a lot like today 20 years ago,” she asked. ” We all remember the moment we heard about a plane hitting one of the towers … I was with my 19-year-old, my eldest, and with the realization that it was a terrorist attack on our nation, and when the second plane hit, I sank into an emotional mess, knowing that one of my sons, perhaps both, would feel the need to answer the call and would join the military and be going off to war to fight terrorism.”

Rowley said after the recent events that have occurred in Afghanistan, she believed it would be difficult to come up with the words to speak. She asked her sons for guidance, and her son Josh shared the following words with her.

“It is hard to fathom that 20 years have passed since that terrible Tuesday morning,” she read. “It is equally hard to fathom to me that 20 years later, we negate 20 years of sacrifice by handing Afghanistan back over into the hands of the Taliban.”

Pictured are various public officials, Chautauqua County Veterans Council members, and other officials gathered for the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Mayville on Saturday.

Rowley shared that her son regretted not joining the military, but attempted to help in the fight by working in the Department of Homeland Security, working for eight years of that time in the Transportation Security Administration to try to prevent future attacks.

“Now, being with the Citizenship and Immigration Service, it amazes me to see several of our men and women, many who served in Afghanistan volunteer to once again leave their families, to head to ports of entry for an indeterminate amount of time to help process the incoming afghans. No matter what has occurred, and what will occur, we can never forget the sacrifices made by the soldiers and their families.”

She said we can never forget what happened that day, the voices that were silenced and how we as Americans felt in the aftermath.

“We must now be their voices,” Rowley said.

She said in the aftermath of 9/11, 20 years ago, she remembers a “different America.”

“We had just endured one of the most devastating times in American history, yet out of the rubble of the of the towers, the Pentagon and the crash, their rose and amazing wave of patriotism,” she said. “We were all Americans, we all felt the same loss, stores ran out of flags to sell, and they were being flown everywhere. People were Americans before anything else. We worked alongside one another, we respected one another, we accepted one another for our differences and even welcomed them as we are a nation that is made up of differences.”

Rowley said while COVID has been a difficult time, America has been through difficult times before and we will endure.

“Let’s work on becoming again what we were on Sept. 12,” she said. “We are Americans, and united we stand – we have proven that over and over. We will not be divided – we cannot be. It’s up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Chautauqua County Veterans Affairs Director Greg Carlson took to the podium afterward. Carlson said thanked the crowd for being there.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since that day,” Carlson said, adding he spend 15 years during that time on active duty in the military. “What I can surely say is that on that day, Sept. 11, 2001, we saw the definition of heroism. In today’s politically correct world where so many words are taboo, one word that is thrown out over and over again is hero. But unfortunately, that’s a disserve to all those people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, because they really were heroes. I think of the 412 first responders that died that day, EMS, police officers, and firefighters. While others were running down the stairs or trying to escape, they were running up. That’s what service and heroism truly look like.”

Carlson tasked the crowd with remembering the people who perished during 9/11 as heroes, and not to “water down that word.”

Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone said he was honored to be a part of the event, especially with so many veterans in attendance. He said his brother served in the military during that time and deployed several times during that period.

“I’m thankful to look around and see the different generations here, thankful to see some of our young people that are here – because we talked at the begin before the service – not enough of this is taught,” he said. “We are the generation that is at risk of forgetting 9/11.”

Quattrone said as he was thinking about what to say during the event, two words dominated his thoughts: unity and love.

“We need to come together as a country,” he said. “We need to come together because of our differences – this country is built on differences, and we need to continue to embrace them and have a unified front.”

County Executive PJ Wendel said the events of 9/11 were horrific, he said the United States emerged from the ashes “strong, a United States of America.”

“We need to unite,” Wendel said. “We need to put our differences aside, increase our tolerance, and embrace the United States of America.”

Wendel said Amy King, his long-time friend and a local resident, was killed in the attacks. He said her mother, Susan, and her sister were in the audience on Saturday.

“Amy’s flight we see time and time again is that second plane that crashed into the world trade center,” he said. “Every year is a challenge.”

He recognized King’s family members, and the crowd applauded them.

“This last year is a little bit challenging for all of us, it stands to reason as many have said – united we stand, divided we fall,” Wendel said. “I challenge each one of you to be united, to increase your tolerance, to embrace one another, to realize although we have differences of opinions – we are still one United States.”

Elizabeth Rankin, county legislator, also spoke on behalf of Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Rep. Tom Reed. She thanked all the veterans and first responders in attendance for being there, and for their efforts.

“I know I do remember where I was in 2001 on 9/11,” Rankin said. “And I remember looking back t the pictures and videos to get ready for this 20th anniversary. The looks on people’s faces – the shock that this could happen on our soil. The horror of the results, the grief and the sadness – it’s just still unbelievable to think that could have happened to us.”

Rankin said she recently traveled to New York City with her husband and son to impress upon him what had happened that day. She said as a nation, we should be imparting this information to the younger generations – and also, sharing the unity and support that was shown in our nation in the days, weeks and months that followed after.

State Sen. George Borrello also addressed the crowd, saying he also remembered where he was that day.

“We have lived it as a people and a nation,” Borrello said. “Unfortunately, we are getting further and further away from that day.”

Borrello said that the events of Sept. 11 should be shared more often, as we are in danger of forgetting what happened that day.

“We have those memories,” he said. “If our children do not understand, it puts our nation a great risk. We have to all remember, we have to teach, they have to understand – but it’s also about the resiliency of that nation. We did rise that day. Even though we learned that we were not invincible, we did learn that we were resilient.”

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