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UD and City of Newark remember 9/11

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

Community gathers for Patriot Day ceremony

The University of Delaware and the city of Newark jointly hosted a Patriot Day ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to honor those killed and injured in the terrorist attacks 17 years ago.

The rainy weather prompted officials to move the event from Olan Thomas Park in Newark to Aetna Fire Station No. 7 on Thorn Lane. Delaware officials, UD faculty, staff, students and other members of the community gathered to recognize the anniversary and thank first responders who saved lives on that tragic day.

The ceremony opened with the presentation of colors by honor guards from the Newark and UD police departments. UD Air Force cadets Benjamin Von Duyke and William Walker sang the national anthem, with many holding their hands over their hearts as they stood.

“Today is not only about remembering the courage and selflessness and sacrifice of thousands of Americans on 9/11 and the days following,” said Chris Lucier, vice president for enrollment management at UD. “It must remind us that the sacrifice continues.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, four U.S. airliners were hijacked by terrorists. One plane was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Two planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers stormed the cockpit, stopping the terrorists from reaching their intended target, which was likely Washington, D.C. In all, about 3,000 people died. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. military began operations in Afghanistan and then Iraq in hopes of countering terrorism. U.S. forces remain in both countries.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Groth placed these red Converse sneakers on the stool during the joint UD and City of Newark Patriot Day ceremony. He explained they belonged to an 11-year-old boy that died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Groth placed these red Converse sneakers on the stool during the joint UD and City of Newark Patriot Day ceremony. He explained they are similar to a pair he processed from an 11-year-old boy who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lucier reminded those at the event that the tragedy directly impacted members of the UD community. He noted five alumni lost their lives that day and six alumni had family members who perished.

Lucier, who served in the military for 21 years, thanked all the veterans in the room and those currently at UD. He noted that Brooks Raup, student veteran services coordinator at UD, has helped many veterans in his role. UD has been recognized in recent years for its commitment to the veteran community.

In thanking veterans and community members, Newark Mayor Polly Sierer was joined by other elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, State Rep. Paul Baumbach, State Sen. Stephanie Hansen, State Rep. Edward Osienski and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.

“Today marks the 17th anniversary of one of the darkest days in our history,” Sierer said. “When I sat down to gather some thoughts to share with you this morning, I was compelled to read some of John McCain’s final words.”

She shared a few words from a letter Sen. McCain’s office released after the Arizona senator died on Aug. 25: “Believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

Sierer presented a proclamation, marking Sept. 11 as Patriot Day and National Day of Service in the city of Newark. She suggested volunteers could help clean up litter from local parks as an act of service.

Carper, who is a Navy veteran, said this day also made him think of the late Sen. McCain. He said Sen. McCain was a leader and those qualities come to mind when he recalls many of the acts of heroism on Sept. 11, 2001.

“He exemplified what leaders should be,” Carper said. “Our job is to serve, not be served. We lead by our examples. Do as I do, not do as I say.”

He told the story of Todd Beamer, who was on Flight 93 that day. Beamer decided in that moment to be a leader and gathered with others to rush the hijackers and regain control of the plane. The plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Carper said the bravery shown by Beamer and others saved countless lives at the terrorists’ intended target.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Groth, who spoke at Tuesday’s event, previously worked as a chaplain at Dover Air Force Base. After the attacks, he was called in to help process the bodies as they were brought to the base. Sept. 11 also happens to be his daughter’s birthday.

Groth placed red Converse sneakers on a stool in front of the podium. They are similar to a pair he processed that belonged to an 11-year-old student killed that day. He shared the stories of some of the youngest Americans who died that day.

“Make this day different, but more than that make — and I’m not trying to preach to you here  — but make your life different,” Groth said. “There’s so many people — not only on that day but through this war on terror — who lost their opportunity to continue to live.”

County Executive Matt Meyer recalled knowing a student who died on the plane that hit the Pentagon. Hilda Taylor, veteran teacher at M.V. Leckie Elementary School in Southwest Washington, and her student Bernard Brown were on their way to California. Mr. Brown had entered and won the trip through National Geographic. Meyer asked that the audience remember the individual people and honor their memories on this day.

“I just ask of all of us, as we move forward, as we remember this day and we cherish those that are gone that the world keeps spinning,” Meyer said. “Think of the many individuals across this country and this world like Hilda Taylor, who continue to hold our country in that high regard, that continue to see it as that city on the hill, that vision of hope for everyone.”

Some of those in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony were personally affected that day. Air Force veteran Stephen Fangman’s brother was a flight attendant on one of the planes that hit the twin towers. He said he appreciated this service and is glad people have not forgotten about this tragedy.   

“You have a hole in your heart that will never ever be filled again,” Fangman said. “I lost a sibling. My mother buried a child.”

He asked that people use this as a reminder not to take their loved ones for granted.

“Be happy,” he said. “Tell your kids and the people you care about that you love them.”

UD Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC Honor Guards perform a flag folding ceremony to conclude the joint UD and City of Newark Patriot Day ceremony to honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
UD Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC Honor Guards perform a flag folding ceremony to conclude the joint UD and city of Newark Patriot Day ceremony to honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

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