By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The solemn notes of a bugle played and flags were lowered to half-staff as Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1136 held a 9/11 remembrance at 8:47 a.m. Tuesday.
The ceremony coincided with the time the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center 17 years ago.
Firefighters, police officers, veterans, city officials and others listened to somber speakers, wreaths were brought forward and the Wyandotte Veterans Honor Guard fired a gun salute.
VFW Post Commander Al Sczark said the emergency response sirens that opened the ceremony served to remind those assembled that 17 years ago similar sirens roared and echoed across lower Manhattan’s financial district as terrorists attacked civilians in the World Trade Center.
“Seventeen years ago we all stared at TVs, watching this nightmare happen on American soil, completely helpless to do anything,” Sczark said. “A war had been declared. We said we’d never forget.”
Sczark said the gathering remembered those who died that day and the heroic efforts of the first responders. He also recognized those who died from the chemicals to which they were exposed during the search-and-rescue missions and the clean up efforts at Ground Zero.
“Today we remember and give thanks to our community’s first responders: the police force, firefighters, EMTs, as well as our city employees who respond to emergency situations within our city,” he said.
Fire Capt. Mike Brandt, who spoke of behalf of Fire Chief Jeff Carley, asked those present to imagine what it would be like if within one hour every firefighter Downriver ceased to exist.
“That puts things into perspective with that number 343,” he said. “That is roughly the size of all the combined Downriver fire departments. We wouldn’t be able to move forward, but New York did, and pressed on.”
Brandt said that after 9/11 he went to New York City and stayed with Engine Company 14, where he said he was welcomed like family.
Police Chief Brian Zaleski said that how we remember this day is a mark of our resilient American spirit.
“We honor and remember those lost, but we also remember on this day, a date that once had no special meaning in our country, a generation of Americans were changed in an instant we will never forget,” he said.
City Clerk Larry Stec, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Joseph Peterson, said first responders are often taken for granted.
“We pick up the phone when we have a problem, and somebody’s always there,” he said. “But give pause to the words that were said here today because what if one day there was no one there?” he said.
Stec thanked the VFW and the first responders on behalf of the city for attending the solemn event.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)