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Hagerstown ceremony remembers 9/11 victims and heroes

September 11, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker's voice was choked with emotion Friday as he reminded those gathered at City Hall of the Sept. 11 tragedy, heroism and the spirit of community the ceremony was meant to commemorate.

"I fear we've started to forget what today is and what it means to our country," Hawbaker said at the City of Hagerstown's Sept. 11 Remembrance Service.

He spoke of a service that was held at The Maryland Theatre a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, at which he saw people of all ages, races, religions and social backgrounds gathered to pray and comfort each other.

"For that hour or so, we had each other, and became one community and one nation under God," Hawbaker said.

In the years since, most people have gone back to being who they were before the attacks, focusing again on "personal views and agendas and how the world affects me," Hawbaker said.

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"Sept. 11 is not just any day," he said. "It's a day to remember and honor those that needlessly died, but it should also be a day to remember what it is to be an American."

Christopher Amos, chief of operations for Community Rescue Service, also recalled the spirit of kindness and unity that spread after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"In the midst of the greatest tragedy, the world saw America at her best," Amos said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said many politicians take credit for preserving America's way of life after the attacks.

"Some did, but the real credit of the continued success of this, the greatest nation on the face of this earth, was, and indeed, still is, those Americans who were down in the trenches doing the necessary work," Munson said, saluting members of the military, intelligence agencies, firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency services workers and others who work for security and safety.

Wayne Taylor, vice president of the Joint Veterans Council, urged people to keep in mind the casualties that are increasing almost daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, which together have reached more than 5,000 U.S. service member deaths and 35,000 U.S. service members wounded.

"We don't get the publicity for all these deaths because it's not a great big figure all at once," Taylor said.

Taylor also encouraged citizens to contribute to security at home by reporting anything that seems suspicious to someone in authority.

"If it turns out to be a false lead, it's better than having 20 people killed or 200 people killed because you saw something and didn't report it because you thought, 'Well, it's not my job.'" Taylor said. "It is your job. It is our job."

The ceremony also included a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first plane struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and patriotic songs sung by three Barbara Ingram School for the Arts students.

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