WATERTOWN — It was warm and the skies were clear as people gathered together to remember a day on which the conditions were eerily the same as they’d been 19 years ago. That day was September 11, 2001, and the coincidence wasn’t lost on those in attendance at Watertown’s annual remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony last Friday at the 9/11 memorial in front of the Watertown Plaza on Main Street.
“I can’t believe how similar it is now to way it was that morning,” said one spectator as the town’s leaders, clergy, first-responders, veterans and civic organizations along with a large but somber crowd gathered.
“This monument behind me, which is dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, stands as a lasting symbol of our commitment to never forget,” said Interim Town Manager John Gavallas, who hosted the emotional ceremony.
“To the families, friends and colleagues who lost loved ones on that day, we feel your grief, we feel your pain, and we stand with you in remembrance,” Mr. Gavallas added.
A hush fell over the crowd after Fr. Anthony Smith and Pastor Joseph Chabot, representing the Watertown Fire and Police Departments, offered solace.
Mr. Gavallas, pacing himself to allow the words to sink in, went through the timeline of the terrorist attacks on the Tuesday morning on which four planes were hijacked, with two slamming into and destroying the World Trade Center, one taking down a wing of the Pentagon and another destined for the Capitol building in Washington, wrested out of the control of the jihadists, eventually crashing into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
In all, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day. Mr. Gavallas concluded his remarks saying that at 8:30 that evening, President Bush addressed the nation and called the attacks “evil, despicable acts of terror” and declared that America, its friends and allies “would stand together to win the war against terrorism.”
State Rep. Joseph Polletta, R-68, and state Sen. Eric Berthel, R-32, also addressed the socially-distanced audience.
“We should and will never forget those who never stopped giving aid that day and in the aftermath of it,” said Rep. Polletta, a theme echoed by native New Yorker Sen. Berthel, who said, “the evil on that day could not destroy our spirit; instead, we made a promise to ourselves to never forget.”
Joining in the ceremony were Janelle Wilk of the Board of Education; interim School Superintendent Dr. John Ramos and Town Council members Robert “Herm” Desena and Mary Ann Rosa.
With precise solemnity, wreaths were laid at the foot of the memorial by the police and fire departments, VFW Post 5157 and the Daughters of the American Revolution, all a bright display of red, white and blue.
After a moment of reflection, a single siren wail sounded in the background after which an honor guard fired off a salute and TAPS was played by Al Atwood of the Oakville VFW.
“This is a time to remember those who died, those who served, and those who carry on,” said Mr. Gavallas, hitting all the somber notes on a morning those who observed will never forget.