WINCHESTER — When the planes hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, death did not discriminate.
The victims were of all races, sexes and economic classes — from the 658 employees at the Cantor Fitzgerald financial services firm in the North Tower of the World Trade Center to several immigrant workers above them at the Windows On the World restaurant, to the hundreds of firefighters and dozens of police, as well as the civilians and soldiers at the Pentagon and the airline passengers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
Less than a month after the attacks, the U.S. retaliated by invading Afghanistan in pursuit of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in an ongoing war that has killed over 2,200 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans, many of them civilians.
But in the immediate aftermath of the 2,997 deaths on 9/11, a spirit of goodwill and solidarity prevailed nationally. The locations that had been attacked were flooded with supplies and help from around the nation for rescue and recovery operations.
On the 18th anniversary of the attacks on Wednesday, a renewal of that united spirit was called for in a prayer during a remembrance in the Winchester Recreation Center at Jim Barnett Park. Many of the approximately 120 people who attended the third annual ceremony were firefighters and police.
“Lord, we know this was the worst of days, but we also realize it brought out the best in our nation,” said the Rev. Kent Woodward, a Frederick County Fire and Rescue chaplain and member of the Round Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company. “As we move forward, we ask that you create in us once again the spirit of unity we felt directly after 9/11.”
Woodward and Winchester Mayor David Smith thanked local police and firefighters for protecting the public and praised the 343 FDNY firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority of New York & New Jersey police officers who died on 9/11. “As we leave today, please thank all our first responders who constantly risk their lives,” Smith said.
The 15-minute tribute began at 8:45 a.m., around the time American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. The ceremony included a performance by Winchester Pipes and Drums of “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace.” Speakers read a timeline of the attacks and aftermath. The remembrance concluded with Gainesboro Fire and Rescue Volunteer Company Fire Chief Don Jackson ringing a bell 20 times.
The bell was given to Gainesboro firefighters by a heart attack survivor they treated. Jackson said the 20 rings are a traditional signal that firefighters have returned to the station safely after a call.
Jackson was an NYPD officer in the 1980s and 1990s. He said after the ceremony that he returned to New York shortly after the attacks. He said he frequently went to ground zero where the twin towers collapsed – known as “the pile” by rescue and recovery workers — and attended funerals for firefighters and police.
“There was a funeral every day,” Jackson said of the weeks after the attacks.