A Call To Remember ; Across Wny, Ceremonies Fill A Crying Need
Publication date: 2002-09-12
Arrival time: 2002-09-14
More than 400 miles from ground zero, on the other side of the state, an empty firefighter's helmet sat atop a pair of boots as a bugler solemnly sounded taps.
Not far from Lackawanna, a huge homemade quilt filled with patriotic messages and images from across the country hung from the windows of Holy Angels Academy in North Buffalo.
And in Amherst, a simple stone memorial was dedicated in memory of the 11 known University at Buffalo alumni who died in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
For many Western New Yorkers, it was a day marked by silent prayer and quiet reflection, a day to seek comfort with those you love.
But for others, the enormity of the loss, as well as the anger and fear that followed, thrust them together in church parishes, public squares and elementary school classrooms.
Everywhere you went, people spoke of the need to honor those who died and, even more important, to never, ever forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, the day that changed all of us -- forever.
"I need to feel spiritual today. I need to be close to God," said DeDe Biondolillo of East Amherst. "There's just a camaraderie with coming together, and I feel we need to share our sorrow."
Instead of watching news accounts of the anniversary, Biondolillo joined several hundred other people attending a special service at Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church in Clarence. They came not because they lost someone close to them, but out of remembrance and thanks.
"Respect," said Shari Ehlert of Clarence. "You have to do something. And I don't know what else we can do."
The prayers and observances started early, beginning at 8:46 a.m., when flags were lowered in Niagara Square to mark the first jet striking the World Trade Center's North Tower. New York State followed with a moment of silence at 10:29 a.m., when the second tower fell.
At Holy Angels High School, the entire student body, more than 300 girls, gathered in front of their newest creation, a 37-by-22- foot quilt made with patches from schools as far away as Hawaii.
The patches, 375 in all, came from 46 of the 50 states, with red, white and blue dominating the color scheme.
"It helped people heal," said senior class President Kathryn Helfer.
The quilt, now dubbed "The United Students of America Quilt," hung in the Smithsonian Institution's Arts and Industry Museum before returning to Buffalo for its official debut Wednesday.
For Kellen Williams, a 13-year old pupil at Mill Middle School in Amherst, the anniversary of that horrific day meant a memorial service outside the Town of Amherst municipal building on Main Street.
Williams, like so many other students across the country, came to honor the people who died in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and on an isolated field in rural Pennsylvania. He found his sadness tinged with pride and anger.
"Even though we were terrorized, we can't be broken easily," Williams said. "We stick together in times of need. Reliving the whole thing sort of makes me mad, though."
Lackawanna firefighters, during a ceremony at Fire Station No. 2 on Abbott Road, honored their brethren by ringing the bell on one of their fire trucks 403 times, a tribute to the 343 firefighters and 60 police and Port Authority officers who died in the attacks last year.
At the bottom of a solitary flagpole, the flag at half-staff, an empty helmet and boots sat as a tribute to the police and firefighters who died trying to save others.
"It's not a very elaborate ceremony. Just very solemn," said Lackawanna Fire Chief Reynold Jennetti.
At the North Campus of the University at Buffalo, several hundred students and faculty gathered in the Center for the Arts to hear words of prayer, healing and understanding from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist and humanist members of the campus.
UB President William R. Greiner, during his remarks, challenged the "9/11 generation" to use what they learn in college to help make the world a place of peace and tolerance.
Afterward, the university dedicated a stone memorial to the alumni who died in the attacks.
In tiny Celoron, a village in Chautauqua County, the anniversary became a personal tribute to Amy King, 29. King, a Celoron native, was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175, the second jetliner to crash into the World Trade Center. A special noontime tribute to her was held, quite appropriately, at the memorial garden carrying her name.
"This is great," said her uncle, Darwin Peterson. "I think it's wonderful -- very fitting and deserving."
Some of the events attracted only sparse crowds, including the "Partners in Freedom" observance at LaSalle Park. The event focused on how the United States and Canada have grown closer in the aftermath of last year's atrocities.
"Do not despair. You are not alone. We are with you," said Canadian Consul General Roger Marsham, quoting from a letter that Prime Minister Jean Chretien sent to the U.S. ambassador to Canada three days after the attacks.
Just a few miles away, more than 250 people gathered at Hoyt Lake for a candlelight "peace vigil" by the Western New York Peace Center.
Director Charles Cobb said last year's "tears, anger and confusion" over the terrorist attacks must give way to a determination to build "a future of peace, justice and harmony."
Later in the evening, more than 150 people held a second candlelight vigil at Hoyt Lake. The event featured hymns sung on the steps facing the lake by the Voices of God Chorus of the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour. The ceremony, one of the last of the evening, ended with a 21-gun salute by the Erie County American Legion.
In Batavia, more than 1,000 people attended a tribute called "Our Community Remembers" at Dwyer Stadium, one of three public memorial services held in the city to mark the anniversary. The keynote speaker was Jason Reardon, a 1991 Batavia High School graduate, who was working in the World Trade Center and escaped before the twin towers collapsed.
News Staff Reporters Jay Rey, Emma D. Sapong, Tom Buckham, Jay Tokasz, Anthony Cardinale and Stephen Watson and Correspondents Terry Frank, Donna Snyder and Bill Brown contributed to this report.
©Copyright 2002, Buffalo News