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VA Center hosts 9/11 remembrance event

September 09, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Miniature American flags, some of which form an outline of "9-11," are shown on the lawn of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., which hosted a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony Friday.
By Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — William Hall was in the lobby of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore when the planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York 10 years ago.

After a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Friday morning at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Hall recalled "crying like a baby" after the terrorist attacks happened, but said he then felt the urge to re-enlist in the Navy.

"I was really messed up for about a week," Hall said while standing next to a sea of about 3,000 small American flags placed at the medical center campus for the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

The names of 2,997 victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, are attached to the flags, which outline a grass cutting in the medical campus lawn that forms "9-11" in what center Director Ann R. Brown called a "garden of remembrance."

A large American flag was draped from the outstretched ladders of two fire trucks nearby.

Officials hope to maintain the memorial for about a week.

The ceremony's featured speaker, Brown urged about 100 people gathered to remember "above all, those who lost and stand with their families and loved ones. Reaffirm that their legacy is safer, stronger and a more resilient America. "

"Through the lives of those who survived this great tragedy, we find solace. Through their heroism we find meaning," she said, her voice quivering with emotion.

Brown's remarks were followed by the playing of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes by Hedgesville High School student Sean Reidy.

Poetry readings by Page Heishman, Michelle Connelly, Marcus Chichester, Kevin Huffman and Ryan Stroop for the ceremony touched upon feelings of grief, resilience, holding loved ones dear and never forgetting that "fateful day in September" a decade ago.

"An evil act of terrorism running through our minds, gentle loving life lost of almost every kind," said Huffman reciting a poem titled "Wake Up Call."

"Red and yellow, black and white, people young and old. It didn't really matter. How could they be so bold."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, in video recorded-remarks, reiterated a commitment to establishing a nationwide wireless network for emergency responders to communicate with one another.

After the ceremony, Brown said the program, which also included music by the Martinsburg High School Chamber Choir and the playing of taps by Harpers Ferry Middle School student Alex Ouimet, came together quickly.

Brown publicly recognized Capt. Janet E. Stevens, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard's nearby Information Technology Service Center, for her involvement in Friday's ceremony. She also thanked the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, Martinsburg Fire Department and Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department for contributing to the event.

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