A piece of the World Trade Center came to its final resting place in Mundelein Sunday during a memorial and dedication service for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
"There isn't anybody American that this didn't touch," said Joan Dennis of Mundelein, who didn't know anyone killed in the attacks but came out as a way to honor those who lost their lives. "Its burned into all of our memories."
Mayor Kenneth Kessler and U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh asked the nearly 200 people who attended the service to take a few minutes to reflect on the tragedy and the families who lost loved ones.
Many were overcome with emotion as taps was played following a 21-gun salute.
"When I saw (the planes hit) I thought it had to be a joke. It was such an unbelievable sight," said Michelle West, a Mundelein resident who said she was working at a restaurant when someone ran in with a portable TV airing the news of the attack. "There's such an incredible feeling of loss for every mom, dad and child that has to go through life without their loved one."
West said seeing the steel beam from the towers, which becomes a permanent memorial in the entrance to the Mundelein Fire Department, took her breath away.
"How do you ever say thank you?" she said. "Nothing will ever be enough."
Though West didn't know anyone who was killed on 9/11, she said her outlook was forever changed by the events of that day.
"It could have been Chicago. It could have been our military bases. It could have been us," she said. "I look at my son differently and I thank God a little harder everyday. It could have been us."
In the auditorium of Buffalo Grove High School, 9/11 was commemorated mainly in stirring music from Howard Green and the Buffalo Grove Symphonic Band.
Along with venerable announcer Wayne Messmer, the band performed Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait," which included Lincoln's famous words "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."
Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman led off the ceremony by saying there are events in history that define the character of America, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy.
"The events of Sept. 11 have had a similar impact on America as a nation," he said. "Prior to 9/11, acts of terrorism happened somewhere else, on the streets of Jerusalem, in Pakistan, in Europe or other far away places that did not impact our everyday lives. Sept. 11 changed all that. There was finally a realization that the world was shrinking."
One of the most moving moments was provided by Buffalo Grove Fire Chief Terry Vavra, who said he lost 343 brothers on Sept. 11, 2001, referring to the New York City firefighters who perished that day.
"Not many families can handle that. But my family is. I have a huge, huge family," he said.
The keynote speaker was U.S. Army Brigardier General Gracus K. Dunn, who praised today's soldiers currently defending our nation.
"Yes, the next great generation is serving today," he said. "These soldiers have served in one, two and sometimes multiple deployments, leaving behind families and friends, leaving behind loved ones, and some of them paying the ultimate sacrifice in never returning."