Naperville marks 20th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks
Hundreds of people gathered quietly Saturday along the Naperville Riverwalk to remember those lost in Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Exchange Club of Naperville hosted the ceremony at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Memorial outside of the Naperville Municipal Center.
The event, which drew more than a thousand people, paid tribute to the late naval Cmdr. Dan Shanower, a Naperville native who died in the attack on the Pentagon, as well as the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"For many of us, it's not just that day but every day that we reflect on the events that made an impact on our world, and certainly within our personal lives," Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis told the somber crowd. "We have all been touched by 911 in many different ways."
The ceremony began exactly at 8:46 a.m. to coincide with the moment in Eastern time when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
"We will never forget that moment, we always remember," Puknaitis said.
A giant flag, hanging from a Naperville fire department ladder truck, was among hundreds of flags that dotted the landscape on both sides of the DuPage River.
"I remember the shock, pain, the uncertainty, anger and the loss," Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said. "I also remember the remarkable compassion, and remember a sense of togetherness in our community, in our nation, and it became our renewed strength. Where were you when the world stopped turning?"
The lyrics of country singer Alan Jackson's emotional ballad, released in the aftermath of Sept. 11, served as the foundation for this year's remembrance ceremony.
Amid moments of reflection was an underlying message of healing, event Chairman Marty Walker said, as community leaders and residents gathered along the riverwalk.
"It's about remembering where we were and healing for the future," Walker said.
While Shanower's mom and other relatives were attending an observance in Washington, two of his nieces, Rachel Rowe of Downers Grove and Stephanie Shanower of Chicago, represented the family during the Naperville event.
"It's tremendous that the city does this and continues to do it. The number of people who come is just fantastic," Shanower's older brother Tom said. "It's a tribute to those who have fallen."