As it did in 2001, September 11, 2021, dawned bright and clear—an optimal, sparkling autumn day.
In 2001’s four coordinated 9/11 attacks, nearly 2,997 lives were lost as television audiences around the world watched the catastrophe play out. In 2021’s observances, countless millions around the world mourned the tragedy in ceremonies large and small.
The Bedford Fire Department has held 9/11 memorials each year since 2002, but the 20th anniversary brought new focus and solemnity to the observance.
Doors to the fire station’s three bays stood open, with sparkling apparatus parked nose out, providing a backdrop for a phalanx of Bedford’s First Responders. The observance began at 10 a.m., a minute after the time the World Trade Center’s South Tower fell, and ended around 10:30, shortly after the North Tower’s collapse.
Speaking on behalf of Bedford Fire Chief David Grunes, Captain Mark Sullivan welcomed local dignitaries and guests gathered to remember “those who were killed on that sunny day in September twenty years ago in the World Trade Center attacks, the attack on the Pentagon, and the downing of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.”
Sullivan reminded the gathering that emergency calls do not pause for any occasion, and indeed firefighters responded to a call during the ceremony, moving quietly to their equipment parked behind the station. The apparatus moved out silently, in respect for the solemn occasion.
Jon OConnor, past commander of American Legion Post 221, encouraged the gathering to reflect and pay tribute to those lost on 9/11, their families, and those who have served the United States over the past 20 years, as well as those serving today.
Bedford honored the 2,997 victims of 9/11, 412 of whom were First Responders. That toll included 343 New York City firefighters; 37 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers; 23 New York City police officers; 8 emergency medical technicians employed by private companies, and 1 patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.
Police Chief Robert Bongiorno and Detective Sergeant Richard Vitale read the names of law enforcement officers. Firefighters Snowdon, Daly, Loreth, Cabral, and Lieutenant Bauman read the names of the fallen firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
Losses with a Bedford connection on 9/11 included retired Air Force pilot Chuck Jones, a systems program director for Intelligence and Information Systems at Hanscom Field. Earlier in his career, Jones had been part of NASA’s astronaut program prior to the Challenger disaster. Jones was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the North Tower. Louis ‘Neil’ Mariani grew up in Bedford and was a staff photographer for the Bedford Minuteman newspaper. He was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the South Tower.
The ceremony concluded with the Firefighter’s Prayer, read by Firefighter Snowdon
When I am called to duty, wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save a life, whatever be its age. Help me embrace a little child before it is too late, or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out. I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect his property. And if according to God’s will, I must answer death’s call, bless with your protecting hand, my family, one and all.
The ceremony was covered by Bedford TV; click this link to watch the full recording.
Faces in the Crowd
Thanks to photographers John McClain and Andrea Cleghorn for sharing their images. Click each one to see it at full size