Where were you on Sept. 11?
It’s a question that is easy to answer, so strongly are the events of that day ingrained into our memories—even two decades later.
On Sept. 11 2001, North Attleborough Police Chief Richard McQuade was a patrol officer working the east side of town. When the call came through that terrorists had struck New York City, he and other officers went to the schools to ensure the children were safe.
“I think we wanted our presence to be seen that day,” he said during a ceremony held on Saturday, Sept. 11. “And we wanted the community to know that we were there for them and help them feel safe.”
McQuade said this response was indicative of how the community and nation came together on that tragic day. He said it was important to remember the 403 first responders lost the day, as well as over 3,000 children that lost their parents. He said the department does this by committing itself to the families of the community.
The ceremony—which could not be held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic—saw a large crowd of town officials, first responders, and residents, many wearing red, white, and blue. Marine Corps Veteran and American Legion member James Taylor sang the National Anthem. Francis Kirby, president of the Veterans Advisory Board, read The Eleventh of September, written in 2002 by former Roger Robicheau, SP5 US Army.
Fire Chief Christopher Coleman spoke of the actions taken by first responders on 9/11. On that day, thousands were making their way to the World Trade Center and firefighters were beginning their shifts. He said Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer was on a routine call when he heard the sound of a jet and saw commercial airliner Flight 11 strike one of the towers.
“This is a terrorist attack,” said Coleman. “The firefighters also know that this is going to be the biggest fire event”
The chief said that firefighters responding to the call acted quickly and without hesitation to make rescues. Over 2,977 lives were lost that day, but since then Coleman said that many first responders have succumbed to illnesses caused by the attacks.
“Please pause and remember and never forget this tragic day,” said Coleman.
Town Council President Justin Pare said the events of Sept. 11 are personal to almost all, as everyone has a story of where they were that day. Though shock, disbelief, and even fear marked that day, Pare said there was a strong sense of resolve to protect our communities.
While writing his remarks for the ceremony, Pare said he watched videos of news coverage from that day and remembers how the country was waiting to hear from then-President George Bush. He shared some of Bush’s address that day, how the terrorists tried to frighten the nation into retreat—and in that, they failed.
“Our country is strong,” said Pare, reciting Bush’s words. “A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”
A ringing of the bell—fifteen times each to honor those lost on 9/11—brought the ceremony to a close. NAFD Lt. Scott McGuire spoke of this tradition in the fire service. The ringing of the bell marks the beginning and end of a shift. When a firefighter sacrifices their lives in service of others, The Last Alarm is rung in memory of their bravery.
“We utilize these traditions as symbols, which reflect honor, and with respect to honor those who have given so much and who have served so well, to symbolize the devotion these brave souls have for their duty,” said McGuire. “It is customary that the last alarm be sounded for our brothers and sisters, who paid the supreme sacrifice for having selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man.”