Naperville remembers Sept. 11 victims' lives, not deaths
Gatherings to remember the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to speeches and solemn moments, bells rung and taps played in Naperville and elsewhere as the suburbs and the nation commemorated the historic day.
But ceremonies hosted each year to mark the occasion shouldn't focus only on the tragic loss of human life that struck the country 14 years ago, says retired New York City Fire Captain Michael M. Dugan, who addressed a Naperville crowd Friday evening with his memories of 11 men from his firehouse who didn't survive the attack.
"I don't think they want us to think about how they died," Dugan said about his fallen brothers and the thousands of others who perished when terrorists attacked the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and an airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania. "I think they want us to think about how they lived, their service to their fellow man, their dedication to duty, their honor, their commitment. Those are the values that we aspire to be."
Dugan gave the keynote speech at Naperville's annual remembrance ceremony, which brought about 250 people to the memorial for one of Naperville's own killed Sept. 11 at the Pentagon, Navy Cmdr. Dan Shanower.
Bagpipers played four stanzas of "Amazing Grace" to symbolize the birth, family life, community life and death inherent in each person's journey through the human life cycle, and those who gathered displayed somber patriotism as they honored and remembered Sept. 11 victims.
"The healing process continues, but we won't forget," said Kevin Dolan, a member of the Exchange Club of Naperville, which organized the remembrance program. "We will remember the lives lost, the heroes that stood out and how our lives changed forever. Yet heal we must."
The annual ceremony allows Naperville residents to pass along recollections of that fateful day and how it was a trying but unifying time in American history, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said.
"Fourteen years ago, we saw sheer terror realized," Chirico said. "We saw families forever changed, the destruction of symbols of the free world, the first responders perished in the blink of an eye. But we also saw heroism."
And as a sign of that heroism, the gathering also allows the community to continue flying the nation's flag as a symbol that American freedom will reign, Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis said.
"We stand here today as unified voice and as a sign of strength and victory," Puknaitis said, "if not for any other reason than the fact that our flag has flown once again today and is flying with pride and justice and honor to all those who truly paid the ultimate price for what we may still enjoy today."