By Kim Siebert MacPhail, with video of the ceremony supplied by Bedford TV
The Bedford Rotary Club held September 11th commemoration ceremonies at Springs Brook Park’s 9/11 Memorial Garden to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that occurred on this day 11 years ago. To open the program, members of the Bedford Fire and Police Departments presented the colors, and Rotary President Peter Colgan led the about 30 attendees in singing “God Bless America.”
Colgan thanked everyone for attending, including Selectmen Margot Fleischman and Bill Moonon; Bedford Police and Fire Chiefs Robert Bongiorno and David Grunes; and Florence Cirignano of Bedford, whose sister-in-law, Kathleen Nicosia, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11. Colgan then opened his remarks by emphasizing this year’s Rotary International theme of “Peace through service” and spoke of the significance of the plantings that ring the commemorative gardens.
Saying that the garden was the inspiration of Bob Mead, a 1956 charter member of the Bedford Rotary, Colgan continued: “The plantings were dedicated to rebuilding our nation and our global fellowship. Each is symbolic. The two maples (the state tree of New York) represent the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The four Kousa dogwoods represent those lost to us on the four airplanes. The 9 Rose of Sharon and 11 stones represent the date.”
Colgan recalled how the events of 9/11 pulled us together as a country and that we became closer as a planet as well:
“But 11 years have passed. Have we changed? Has the world moved closer to peace? Have the walls come down? Have our hearts opened further? Have the lines that divide us faded?
“Many people can’t imagine a world without the lines that divide us. Many need the comfort of knowing that they live within a space defined by the lines they’ve drawn. Lines between towns seem real when we see them on a map, but you don’t see them in the real world driving from one place to another. Lines between countries seem real enough. They define differences between neighbors and how they have agreed to live together, but they, too, are really just inventions. So are the lines between black and white; between Muslims and Jews and Christians and atheists. So are the lines between rich and poor, clever and slow, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, old and young. While the ideas these lines delineate dramatically impact how we live, I think it’s important to realize that they are lines of our own creation. It’s within our power to make them real, and it is within our power to erase them completely.”
At the close of Colgan’s speech, the assembled group sang “America the Beautiful,” and Selectman Bill Moonan stood to take the podium.
Moonan spoke of Pearl Harbor and how the memory of the horror of those attacks has faded from the country’s collective memory.
“We need to make a conscious effort, such as we are today, to keep alive in our memory those who gave their lives and performed their duty on 9/11. If we don’t, in 70 years this day will just be a footnote in history. It is, therefore, important that we make sure each generation following us understands what happened and why it happened. Otherwise, as George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. And we all hope there will never be a need to commemorate another day like September 11th, 2001.”
Father Demetrios Tonias of the Archangels Greek Orthodox Church in Watertown then spoke about “the seed of the word of God that holds us together.” He recounted the bravery of one man at the World Trade Center, Wells Crowley, an equity trader who became what some have called their guardian angel because he selflessly led others to safety who would have otherwise perished. Father Tonias closed by saying that “the only way we can be separated from each other is to separate ourselves.”
Following the singing of “Amazing Grace,” the colors were retired to end the ceremony.