Teaching, reflecting part of Sept. 11 remembrance in Naperville

As each year passes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation realizes what Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico told hundreds gathered for a solemn remembrance Tuesday evening.

"As time passes it becomes more important to remember and to teach the future generations what happened on this day 17 years ago," Chirico said. "We remain humbled and honored by the sacrifices made and vow to never forget the events of that fateful day."

Chirico made remarks at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial honoring a Naperville native who lost his life in the attack on the Pentagon, along with nearly 3,000 others who were killed that day.

As communities across the nation gathered to remember and to teach, those who convened in Naperville heard reflections from CBS Newsradio traffic reporter and Kirkland Community Fire District Lt. Kris Habermehl. Using the skills of a broadcaster and the perspective of a firefighter, Habermehl retold the tale of how the "world changed in 102 minutes" on a sunny day not unlike Tuesday.

Firefighters arriving at the first tower struck by a terrorist-flown plane realized they would be unable to save people trapped above the floors the plane hit. But Habermehl said responders knew they'd signed up for a job like this, to run into the burning building, not away from it.

He contrasted their views to those of workers inside the towers and passengers aboard the affected flights. Those people, he said, may have felt thrust into something they did not sign up for. It became their life anyway and part of American history.

On the anniversary of an occasion so extravagantly abhorrent and foreign, Habermehl said people survive only by tolerating its reality.

"That's how we get through it," Habermehl said. "It's something called together."

Marty Walker with the Exchange Club of Naperville, which hosted the ceremony, called Habermehl's remarks "encouraging," after the keynote speaker told the audience to be "almost joyful on this most terrible of anniversaries" and to use the tragedy "as a way to love your fellow man."

Earlier Tuesday, in Aurora, police and firefighters conducted a short ceremony in front of the police department, presenting colors, lowering the flag and displaying a memorial wreath. The Aurora Police Pipe and Drums played "Amazing Grace."

"While there is nothing we can do to change what happened that day, we can honor those that sacrificed so much by the way we live our lives," said police Cmdr. Keith Cross, who led the ceremony.

Aurora Fire Chief Gary Krienitz noted that year by year, the attacks fades from mind, in what he called a "normal evolution." But, he said, "We can continue to reinforce and bring to the surface the unity that was felt by our country" that day.

• Daily Herald staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report.

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  Naperville scouts, community leaders, band members and others gather Tuesday evening for a remembrance ceremony at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial. Marie Wilson/
  Kat Stapleton and Chad Pedigo sing the national anthem on Tuesday evening as Naperville pauses to reflect on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Marie Wilson/
  Naperville firefighters in duty gear lower the flag at the Naperville municipal center to half staff Tuesday in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Marie Wilson/
  Aurora police officers salute Tuesday morning during the city's Sept. 11 memorial observance. Brian Hill/
  Residents bow their heads as the flag is lowered during Aurora's ceremony Tuesday morning to remember those who perished in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Brian Hill/
  Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin speaks Tuesday during Aurora's Sept. 11 memorial ceremony. Brian Hill/
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