Crowd stands tall through rain at Pa. 9/11 ceremony

September 11, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Service members stand in formation Sunday in the square in downtown Chambersburg, Pa., during a memorial service for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Doug Warnock was telling a first-person account of the events that unfolded at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when the skies opened up and rain drenched downtown Chambersburg Sunday evening.

Even so, hundreds sitting and standing in the square did not seek refuge and stood fast, a symbolic response to the request of every speaker who took the stage: To stand together as a nation, no matter who challenges the American way of life.

A Chambersburg resident and employee of the U.S. Army, Warnock was joined by several elected and military officials who spoke before close to 1,000 people in the square Sunday as a way to commemorate the lives affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as dedicate steel artifacts from the fallen World Trade Centers that will be fashioned into a permanent memorial at the Letterkenny Chapel on the former grounds of the Army depot.

Spearheaded by the Rev. Bill Harter and his community group, two steel beam sections from the fallen towers will serve as a constant reminder for all residents of Franklin County that 9/11 will not be forgotten. Harter said the artifacts represent the “hard facts” of the attacks.

“At the same time, this steel represents the durability … of our commitments to one another as people of faith, as fellow Americans,” Harter said.

State Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Franklin-Adams-York, spoke about the courageous efforts of first responders when the towers fell as well as the servicemen and women who have fought in the time since.

“On that fateful day a decade ago, terrorists planned, coordinated and executed their plan, down to the minute. What they hadn’t calculated was the valor of the American people,” said Alloway, referring to the men and women who kept Flight 93 from reaching its destination in Washington, D.C., possibly the White House or Pentagon, where Warnock was that day.

As the rain continued, Warnock finished his story. At 9:37 a.m., he felt the explosion and concussion of the impact when Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. All 25,000 people inside, save for two who were killed, were evacuated from the building, he said.

“And what I see is just unbelievable; the devastation – a big gaping hole in the building where the airplane entered, the windows blown out … jet fuel was still burning, black smoke billowing out,” Warnock said. “The Pentagon police force is holding us back at this point and I’m just standing there gawking, trying to wrap my head around this whole event, and all of a sudden, the police (say) ‘run as fast and far away from the building as you can. Another plane is coming in.’

“Of course, later we’d know that was Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville,” he said.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, Franklin County Commissioner David Keller, Nancy Bull, a representative of U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Rodney Gettig, who was the commanding officer of New York City’s Fort Hamilton on the day the towers were hit, also spoke during hour-long ceremony before the rain.

“When the crew and passengers of Flight 93 learned their hijacked plane was part of the terrorists’ murderous plans, they resolved to fight back,” Alloway said. “The cowards who took all of those innocent lives learned that Americans will not go down without a fight. Ten years have passed since the terrorist attack, and we have emerged stronger, more unified and more committed than ever to resolve to never to forget.”

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