Solemnly marking the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds wondered aloud what could have been for the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.
“As we stand here today in remembrance of these brave firefighters, police officers and civilians, I can’t help but to wonder what those who lost their lives would be doing today if this had not happened,” Reynolds said. “Had this not happened, how many lives could they have touched?”
Reynolds spoke in front of the veterans monument at J.F. Gregory Park as Richmond Hill police officers and firefighters, officials and residents gathered Friday for a 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
“What we do know is this — those who lost their lives and those families who lost loved ones will forever be remembered for the sacrifices they made on this day 14 years ago,” he said. “They paid the ultimate price because of their beliefs in the freedoms that we enjoy as a nation.”
Reynolds and Mayor Harold Fowler laid a memorial wreath at the veterans monument in honor of all those who died on 9/11 and in the ensuing war on terrorism. A bell tolled 11 times — once for each of the United States’ military conflicts — and taps followed.
Fowler referred to Sept. 11, 2001, as the moment “when the world as we knew it changed forever.” The day “ranks as the most devastating in our nation’s history,” Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett said.
“Hundreds of families still suffer today — a mother, a father, a brother, a child who are no longer among them,” Catlett said. “The survivors live with the pain of Sept. 11 daily.”
However, Fowler pointed out, the ceremony was “more than a remembrance of the past.” Now recognized by U.S. law as Patriot Day, Sept. 11 is observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“It is a tribute to what we learned about ourselves on that horrific day,” Fowler said. “We remember how we acted that day — how ordinary human beings living their ordinary lives reacted with extraordinary valor.”
Fowler praised the people who, “in the face of death chose duty.” Among them were “the security guards in the World Trade Center who continued to assist people as the towers fell down around them; the New York City firefighters who searched tirelessly for their own; the police officers who self-sacrificed for the good of strangers.”
That same commitment to duty and service drives members of Richmond Hill’s first responders, Fowler said.
“Today, we remember and pay tribute to the living and the dead from that fateful day, but we also honor our hometown heroes,” he said.
Reynolds recalled seeing the 9/11 tragedy unfold from a television in his office. He watched the news coverage, wondering, “How could this happen in this country?”
Steve Lane, the pastor of New Beginnings Community Church and chaplain for the Richmond Hill Police Department, shared similar thoughts on the pain and shock people across the U.S. felt that day.
“We remember the first time we heard the news. We recall the first time we saw those images,” Lane said. “We remember the ways our thoughts and prayers were with those families who lost loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with them again today.”