Ne­wark re­mem­bers vic­tims of 9/11

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

On that un­for­get­table Septem­ber morn­ing 16 years ago, Sgt. Stephen McGuire had just ar­rived at his Army re­serve cen­ter in Hunt­ing­ton, W.Va., when he learned of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in New York.

Im­me­di­ately, the com­bat vet­eran knew the world had changed.

“The in­no­cence was gone [from] our na­tion,” McGuire re­called Mon­day. “It was go­ing to be left to us to bring it back.”

McGuire, now 40 and a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware, was the fea­tured speaker at a 9/11 re­mem­brance cer­e­mony or­ga­nized by the city of Ne­wark and the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware.

The cer­e­mony — at­tended by pub­lic of­fi­cials, ROTC cadets, a con­tin­gent of lo­cal first re­spon­ders and a dozen or so Ne­wark res­i­dents — was held at Olan Thomas Park on Cleve­land Av­enue, which is home to a memo­rial garden that was ded­i­cated three months af­ter 9/11. The garden in­cludes a plaque and three trees: a sugar maple to rep­re­sent the vic­tims in New York, an Amer­i­can dog­wood to rep­re­sent the vic­tims in Vir­ginia (the Pen­tagon) and an east­ern hem­lock, to rep­re­sent the vic­tims in Penn­syl­va­nia.

McGuire told the crowd that while ev­ery­one has his or her own mem­o­ries of 9/11, he wanted to de­scribe what that day was like for some­one who was in the mil­i­tar y.

“For most Amer­i­cans, it meant a shift in the way we per­ceive our safety and se­cu­rity,” he said. “But for a se­lect 0.45 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, it meant only one thing: mo­bi­liza­tion.”

A na­tive of Ken­tucky, McGuire en­listed in the Army in 1994, while still in high school. He was de­ployed in 1996 dur­ing the peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Bos­nia. He was de­ployed again in 2006 to Kuwait, in sup­port of the war in Iraq, be­fore be­ing hon­or­ably dis­charged in 2008.

On 9/11, he and a friend were as­signed to block the en­trance to their re­serve cen­ter, which had been or­dered locked down.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting on that Humvee, on the hood, and just hav­ing an over­whelm­ing ache in my heart try­ing to un­der­stand the ha­tred that was per­pe­trated that day on our soil,” he said. “And to this day, I still can’t un­der­stand it. I can only hope, as I did then, that we can stop it or at least slow it.”

He and his friend had al­ready served over­seas, so they knew what to ex­pect. But, he said, he felt for the younger sol­diers who would soon ship out for the first time. Even­tu­ally, the stress got to him.

“I pulled out a joint and I lit that thing right there on that Humvee,” he re­called Mon­day. “What are they go­ing to do, kick me out? It was a scary, scary time. It doesn’t get any eas­ier.”

“Six­teen years later, we’re still in Afghanistan,” he added. “Kids are still be­ing born, grad­u­at­ing and go­ing to the same con­flict we started. So let’s reach out, let’s re­mem­ber these young peo­ple who are of­fer­ing them­selves.”

UD Provost Domenico Grasso, also an Army vet­eran, said he was get­ting ready to head to the air­port to fly to Wash­ing­ton for a meet­ing at the Pen­tagon when the at­tacks oc­curred. He urged those in at­ten­dance Mon­day to re­mem­ber the he­roes who emerged from that sad day.

“That in­cred­i­ble tragedy that ex­posed the worst side of hu­man­ity also high­lighted the strength, self­less­ness and brav­ery of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Grasso said. “This is a time for us to not only re­mem­ber all those who died and suf­fered be­cause of that fate­ful day but to ex­hibit the same brav­ery and self­less­ness in our own chal­leng­ing time that would have made all of them proud.”

Mayor Polly Sierer also touched on the theme of pub­lic ser­vice.

“I’m so grate­ful to our com­mu­nity for com­ing to­gether to honor the mem­ory of those we lost, but it’s im­por­tant we take it be­yond just this day, “Sierer said. “Acts of ser­vice can hap­pen ever y sin­gle day.”

“Our men and women of the armed ser­vices, our po­lice of­fi­cers, our fire­fight­ers and first re­spon­ders prove that to be true day in and day out, as do blood donors and food pantry vol­un­teers and those that help the home­less,” she added. “It’s up to all of us and gen­er­a­tions to come to demon­strate that same spirit.”

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

ROTC cadets from the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware fold a flag dur­ing a 9/11 re­mem­brance cer­e­mony at Olan Thomas Park on Mon­day.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Sgt. Stephen McGuire, an Army vet­eran and UD stu­dent, speaks dur­ing a 9/11 re­mem­brance cer­e­mony at Olan Thomas Park on Mon­day.

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