DOVER — It’s hard for many to believe that it has been nearly 20 years since the peaceful morning of Sept. 11, 2001, quickly turned upside down by terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania.
With each passing year, it seems like interest in events to honor the 2,977 individuals who perished in the attacks — as well as the more than 6,000 who were injured — seems to wane just a little more.
However, Dover Air Force Base Fire Emergency & Services, in partnership with local first responders — as well as the Citizens’ Hose Co. of Smyrna, the Smyrna-Clayton Ministerium and several other groups throughout the state — continue their pledges to “never forget” by hosting annual memorial services.
The 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at the Air Mobility Command Museum, adjacent to Dover Air Force Base, will take place Saturday at 10:15 a.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event is by invitation only.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of an attack designed to break our nation but, instead, brought us together,” said Col. Matt Husemann, 436th Airlift Wing commander. “Although painful to relive, it’s memorials like these that remind us of our promise to defend our country, our people and our home and to never forget those who lost their lives.”
This year’s guest speaker will be Ocean Beach (New Jersey) Police Capt. Tyree Bacon, a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve master sergeant, who served as a senior court officer in the New York County Supreme Court and was one of 20 court officers who responded to the attack at the World Trade Center. Capt. Bacon is also a former captain for the Islip (New York) Fire Department.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Kolk, a captain in the DAFB Fire Department, was one of the organizers of last year’s memorial event. He said the annual 9/11 ceremony is an important tradition to continue.
“The only way we can remember it is about talking, and you have to talk to remember,” Staff Sgt. Kolk said. “We like to introduce this event into our fire service and into the Air Force, so that way, no one ever does forget what that day was about and how we are remembering them. It’s all about who sacrificed their lives that day, what happened that day and how we all came together that day.
“We don’t ever want to forget. I’ll always be a part of this, and the Dover Fire Department and Dover Air Force Base will always be a part of this because that is such a day to remember and to never forget. You can’t just let these things get lost in history. It needs to be talked about every single 9/11 that happens.”
The Citizens’ Hose Co. and the Smyrna-Clayton Ministerium will hold their annual memorial service at the Smyrna firehouse Saturday night at 7.
“9/11 will forever be etched in our hearts, especially as a first responder,” said Chris Hudson, spokesman and past president of Citizens’ Hose. “Every person who can remember that day can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the attacks.
“We will never forget those lives that perished that day, and we will continue to hold an annual memorial service to honor those innocent lives lost.”
Music by the Citizens’ Hose Co. Band, prayers by community clergy and a candlelight vigil will accompany an address by Past Chief James L. Cubbage Jr. from the Clayton Fire Co., Mr. Hudson added.
Remembrance offerings throughout the state
Meanwhile, there are several options for honoring the victims of 9/11 in Sussex County on Saturday.
In Lewes, there will be a memorial event at the residence of Roger and Carol Whitford, whose son, Mark Whitford, a New York Fire Department member, perished in the twin tower attacks.
The ceremony, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., will be held at 17181 Minos Conaway Road. Elected officials, as well as local fire department members and NYFD representatives, are expected to attend.
At the CHEER Community Center in Georgetown, also at 5, CHEER and the County Seat Cruisers will host Patriot Day, with testimonials, a flyover, a car show and a memorial bell to ring in solemn tribute to the victims.
Also, at 6:30 p.m., a 20th-anniversary remembrance service, sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28, will be held at Post 28, east of Millsboro.
Several thousand bags, weighted with sand and battery-powered tea lights, will be placed in the large field near the post’s pavilion Saturday afternoon. Each bag will have the name of a person who perished in 9/11.
Tina Washington, Unit 28’s public relations chairwoman, emphasized that this is not a celebration but a solemn observance.
“We are remembering. We are doing a remembrance,” she said.
The town of Milton, in partnership with the Milton Fire Department and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6984, will host a 9/11 ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday in Milton Memorial Park.
Additionally, some groups are doing their part to remember 9/11 on Friday.
Dover International Speedway, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and the Blood Bank of Delmarva will host their 16th annual 9/11 memorial blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
The drive will take place at Dover Downs, and there will be drawings for tickets to next year’s NASCAR races.
In New Castle County, Middletown High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC cadets will lead a memorial service at 8:30 Friday morning.
Active and retired military, first responders and the public in general are invited to the school for the event.
Kent Co. joins U.S. attorney in coloring Delaware blue
Kent County Levy Court will honor the fallen — as well as first responders and military members who continue to answer the call to duty — by having its administration complex, recreation center and public library participate in a blue-light tribute.
David C. Weiss, U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that his office will commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with the tribute and asked that building owners throughout Delaware join in by placing battery-operated, blue tea lights in their windows, beginning Friday.
Facilities can also replace white outdoor lightbulbs with blue ones.
“Saturday, September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the heroic crash of United Flight 93 in the fields near Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” Mr. Weiss said in a statement. “We seek to pay tribute to the fallen, their families and friends, and the first responders who ran to the danger on 9/11 and who continue to serve our communities today.
“We ask all Delaware businesses and government organizations to join us in our Blue Light Tribute to those brave men and women — the law enforcement officers, medical workers and military personnel who dedicate their lives to keep us safe.”
Levy Court President Terry L. Pepper said it is important to always remember what took place on 9/11.
“We as a country must always remember the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and teach what happened to those whom are too young to remember,” Commissioner Pepper said. “If we forget, we will always be vulnerable to tragic events such as this in the future. The lighting of our facilities in blue is the very least we can do.”
Also, on Saturday, the Kent County Department of Public Safety will take part in a commemoration ceremony at American Legion Walter L. Fox Post 2 in Dover at 11 a.m.
Public Safety Chief Colin Faulkner said, “Sept. 11 shall remain embedded in the consciousness of America as a day of remembrance for the sacrifice of those who lost their lives as innocent victims and first responders and (as) a reminder to all that the resolve of the American people shall never wane.”
According to the Pew Research Center, nothing in the three decades prior to the 9/11 attacks, nor in the two decades following, has unified the United States in that way, transcending age, gender, geography and even politics.
Even though the attacks occurred two decades ago, the thought of a future threat has remained within the minds of Americans who can remember the events of that day.
“Kent County commissioners hope, when we see these buildings (lit in blue) during this time, it will be a stark reminder to all of us,” Commissioner Pepper said.