The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
State marks anniversary of 9/11
WESTPORT — They came again to Sherwood Island State Park, with its faraway view of Manhattan, to remember and read aloud the names of the dead lost 20 years ago in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and triggered the nation’s frustrating, ultimately losing war on international terrorism.
While a whole generation has come of age in the years since that clear day on September 11, 2001, when the four hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center 47 miles away, the Pentagon in Washington
and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., the images remain fresh in the memories of those old enough to remember or who have seen the video record.
So they gathered — the
young and the old, the public officials, law enforcement and private citizens — in the rain, around the stone monument here on Thursday to remember how much was lost in two decades minus two days, including 2,448 dead U.S. service members in Afghanistan and $6.5 trillion dollars
that taxpayers will be contributing to the cost of the war until at least 2050.
Thursday was a time for reflection even as the few remaining Americans try to flee Afghanistan, the last redoubt of a war on terrorism that was marked by corruption, a colossal failure in nation-building and the sudden collapse of the Afghan military and police as Americans withdrew and the Taliban easily captured the major cities.
For Elizabeth Bullis Weise of Fairfield, “It always helps to talk about it.” Weise’s sister was a flight attendant in the first hijacked plane to smash into the Trade Center, shortly before 9 a.m.
“It was real but not real,” she told a crowd of about 300 people in the pavilion commemorating the state’s 161 dead from 9/11. “That day I felt an entire range of feelings. I dream of her, which is a gift. She is always doing something in life,” Weise said to an assembly that included other families and state leaders including Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.
Sean Rooney, who was from Glenbrook in Stamford, was killed when the south tower collapsed. His wife, Beverly Rooney, was on the phone with her husband and watching the
television as the building fell so slowly and horribly. She later went on to become an activist for victims in their families, but was killed in a 2009 plane crash.
Her sister, Margaret Eckert of Massachusetts, was at the hour-long memorial ceremony Thursday. “People all across America cared for each other,” she said. “Wisdom usually comes at a price. 9/11 was too high a price, but we can pull wisdom from the rubble,” Eckert said. “How will we treat the refugees who will soon arrive in our communities from Afghanistan? They helped our troops. Will we help them? We know we can do it because we did it after 9/11. Kindness is a muscle that needs more exercise, for sure.”
Kathryn Hebert of Norwalk, whose brother Adam Lewis worked on the 89th floor in the south tower and perished, said she had a premonition of his death when she heard about the plane attack that morning.
“There are so many emotional layers,” she said of the ensuing years. “I continue to remain always hopeful that we will learn from 9/11 and so many more tragedies that have followed, including everything that has happened around the pandemic in 2020. There is still so much violence and hatred and negativity in our
country and the world. We all need to step back and do our part. This annual remembrance is not only about never forgetting an awful, dreadful violent attack on our country, our way of life, our being. Now more than ever this reminds us of our humanity and we are all responsible for humanity, collectively and individually.”
“Some things change us forever,” Lamont said, remembering September 12, 2001 as “the day we all came together,” and a quiet period with no planes in the sky, but a growing sense of national purpose. Looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows toward the western horizon and New York City, obscured in the fog and rain, the governor recalled “little acts of kindness” everywhere.
“We felt that all over the world,” Lamont said. “That’s something else I’d like to remember is those brief moments that bring us all together as one, and we remember our common humanity while we were attached to each other and why we remember days like this.”
Lamont who earlier in the day attended the memorial service for State Police Sgt. Brian Mohl, said the attacks were as historic as Pearl Harbor in 1941, the assassination of President John F.
Kennedy in 1963 and the COVID pandemic of 2020 and 2021.
As Lamont spoke, a protester walked along the outside of the building, holding an “Impeach Lamont” sign. “Look, democracy is an incredibly messy place,” Lamont said. “It’s moments like these and events like these and ceremonies like these and Sept. 12 and what we had this morning together on behalf of Brian (Mohl) it reminds us of why we wake up everyday: why we look out for each other; why we care for each other. And for me, that’s what I think about on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 and that day we all came together as one. That’s what I like to reach for everyday.”
After the names of the 161 were read, Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz led the group out to place yellow roses at the memorial area on a nearby point which, on a clear day, you can see the towers of Manhattan.
The afternoon-long rain finally let up at about 6:30 p.m. as people bearing roses walked out alone and in small groups about 200 yards to join Lamont and Bysiewicz in the memorial garden. The setting sun shined briefly.