Region honors 20th anniversary of 9/11: ‘It’s a day that changed us all forever’

  • Orange Police Department Administrative Assistant Brenda Anderson and firefighter John Smith open Orange’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony Saturday morning at Orange Fire Station 2. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Petersham Police Chief Dana Cooley Jr. and state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, converse at Orange’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony Saturday morning at Orange Fire Station 2. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Orange firefighter John Smith rings the bell at 9:03 a.m. to mark when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/12/2021 4:37:09 PM
Modified: 9/12/2021 4:37:11 PM

On a crisp morning reminiscent of Sept. 11, 2001, communities around the region gathered Saturday to remember and honor those lost on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Towns across Franklin County honored the sacrifices of first responders and preached the importance of caring for one another as the pain of Sept. 11, 2001 still stings today.

Orange

The Orange Fire Department hosted a ceremony led by Police Department Administrative Assistant Brenda Anderson and firefighter John Smith at Station 2 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Displays with photos and stories from the tragedy were set up and videos were available for viewing. Smith rang a bell to mark when the planes hit the Twin Towers and when the towers fell.

Anderson spoke to the crowd about the shock she experienced the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, which she spent at the police academy.

“It was a tough morning 20 years ago, on a day much like this,” Anderson said. “I was in a room full of chiefs of police. ... No one knew what to do.”

She spoke of the fear in the hours and days after. Every time a plane flew low to the ground, she thought it was happening all over again.

“Our sense of security was shaken to the core,” she said. “We’re still affected by 9/11 every day.”

After she spoke, Anderson said the terrors of that day are almost indescribable.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” she said as the crowd shared their stories with one another. “It’s a day that changed all of us forever.”

Anderson, who has worked as a dispatcher for the Orange Police Department, recalled the “incredible” courage of first responders that day, who still went into the buildings to rescue people despite very low survival odds.

“They did their job anyway,” Anderson said. “That kind of bravery is rare … for people to put other people first.”

She said it’s important to mark this date, especially considering the young adults of this generation were too young or not even alive to witness the events.

“(To realize) how deep the feelings went,” Anderson said. “There’re whole generations that weren’t around. It’s hard for (them) to realize what life was like before. … Every generation has their own tragic time, but hopefully nothing like this ever happens again.”

New Salem Fire Lt. Cameron Dunbar spoke to the crowd about an impromptu vigil in town and the community bonding that formed as a result of the attacks.

“Everything we do relates to 9/11. … It’s never been more evident,” Dunbar said. “There’s lots of injuries that haven’t healed.”

He spoke about the “inherent risk” of being a first responder and the shared pain that comes when they die.

“I hope we never lose sight,” he said, “of the sacrifices these folks made.”

Petersham Police Chief Dana Cooley Jr. and state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, also spoke about the loss and tragedy of that day.

“There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood,” Whipps said, “that people who don’t wear your uniforms don’t understand.”

Aside from Orange, both formal ceremonies and personal endeavors across the county marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Churches ceremoniously rang their bells, some ringing 20 times — once for every year since the tragedy — and others ringing to follow the timeline of 9/11’s events.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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