Naperville recalls Sept. 11 with 'hope, honor, pride'
"Hope, honor and pride" prevailed Monday in Naperville and across the country as communities came together to commemorate Sept. 11 -- without dwelling on the "losses, agony and destruction" of the day.
Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis put those words to the purpose of the city's annual remembrance event, an evening gathering at the Cmdr. Dan. Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial along the Riverwalk hosted by the Exchange Club.
In the fading light of the pre-sunset hour, the ceremony marking the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks reminded residents that recalling the devastating day remains vital, especially in the midst of new trying times.
"As time passes, it becomes more important to remember and teach future generations what happened on that day, Sept. 11, 2001," Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said. "We remain humbled and honored by the sacrifices made on Sept. 11 and vow never to forget the events of that fateful day."
In the years since terrorists killed 2,977 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, memorials and museums have been built. Some terrorists have been brought to justice. Physical wounds have healed. Emotional ones remain. But so do memories of how America responded, said Lanson "Lanny" Russell, the event's keynote speaker, who retired in 2008 after a 44-year fire service career as chief in Downers Grove, Villa Park, Peotone and DeKalb.
"No matter what the terrorists threw at America, she responded with heroism and compassion," Russell said. "It's the American way."
Puknaitis said remembering the united and positive response to the tragedy should help as the country pitches in to help hurricane victims in Texas, Louisiana and Florida clean up and keep going. Every anniversary of Sept. 11 is an opportunity to show how the nation is better when its citizens come together in a spirit of service.
"We stand here today as a unified voice and as a sign of strength and victory," Puknaitis said, "if for any other reason than the fact that our flag is flown once again today and is flying with pride and justice and honor to all of those who truly paid the ultimate price for the freedom that we still enjoy."
The Naperville gathering recalled one of Sept. 11's fallen in particular, naval intelligence Cmdr. Dan Shanower, who was killed at work when a hijacked plane struck the Pentagon.
Shanower, a Naperville native, is the namesake for the memorial featuring a steel beam from the World Trade Center behind city hall. Members of his family are given a place of honor at the remembrance ceremony each year.
"We must remember the words of the late Cmdr. Dan Shanower," said Marty Walker of the Exchange Club of Naperville, who planned the event. "'Freedom isn't free. The cost of freedom is the blood that was shed so that we can enjoy what we sometimes take for granted,'"