Newark remembers victims of 9/11
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.”
ROTC cadets from the University of Delaware fold a flag during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Olan Thomas Park on Monday.
Sgt. Stephen McGuire, an Army veteran and UD student, speaks during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Olan Thomas Park on Monday.