[9/11/21 American flag at the Twentieth Annual Remembrance Ceremony at the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College. Photos by David Kramer, See An eerie quiet at Monroe Community College]
Since moving back to Rochester in 2004 from Rhode Island — where driving on 95N from Shannock to Providence, I listened on the radio to planes crashing into the Towers, imagining but not knowing if the cars around me were also listening in disbelief — we’ve covered several 9/11 remembrances and related events.
Yesterday, I attended the Twentieth Annual Remembrance Ceremony at Monroe Community College, ceremonies and the ribbon cutting at the War on Terror Memorial in Highland Park. The day before I went to the OPERATION WE REMEMBER event at the Blue Cross Arena.
Monroe Community College
The MCC Remembrance Ceremony was well attended and still powerful despite the passage of time. While the anniversary made the event special, the moving ceremony felt much like the others I have observed. Many of the same people come every year to offer respects and to honor victims and survivors. The event will be much the same on the twenty first anniversary and those to follow.
At 8:45 a.m., when the first Tower was struck, the sun will illuminate an image of the The World Trade Center carved in granite.
Sometimes the quieter moments can be the most poignant. I left the ceremony early to travel to the ribbon cutting in Highland Park. On the way, I could hear Jyair Crouch sing God Bless America and then the Keystone Pipes and Drums. Alone for the moment as 8:45 a.m. approached, my memory returned to that drive in Rhode Island as the Towers were hit, also alone, wondering what it meant and what it would mean.
The War on Terror Monument is located in the Gary Beikirch Memorial Park in Highland Park South, and the latest addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester.
Including three from the Beirut bombing in 1983, the Memorial is inscribed with the names of 32 men and women of the armed forces of the United States who died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On Memorial Day 2020, I attended the ground breaking ceremony, then followed the progress the Memorial throughout the summer of 2021.
The 9/11 Ceremony and ribbon cutting
Director at Monroe County Veteran Services, Nicholas Stefanovic, one of many speakers, addressed the large crowd for the dedication of the Memorial. Nick served in United States Marine Corps on three separate deployments in Afghanistan. In his final tour, Nick served as a Platoon Sergeant responsible for managing the welfare and success of 40-45 Marines. Nicholas Stefanovic’s speech 9/11/21
Speaking of his experiences in Afghanistan, Nick invoked a question of the minds of many: We ask ourselves what we did it for, was it worth it?
One of the reasons I am thankful that I spent so much time in Afghanistan is because it allows me to stand here and confidently say it was worth it. Every one of those lives was worth it. An entire generation of children grew up free from oppression, and entire generation of young adults have been able to vote for their leaders, and an entire generation of women were freed from being slaves. One second of freedom is worth dying for because the moment we value it any less than that we have resigned ourselves to an eternity of oppression.
In his testament, Nick emphasizes the opportunities and freedoms given Afghan women:
Evil looks like enslaving women who are beaten if they so much as appear in the street without a man because they are seen as being temptations . . . evil is executing a pregnant woman because she was an Afghan police officer, and evil is literally taking real whips to the brave women protesting Taliban rule in the streets in Kabul.
Powerful words indeed.
The Blue Cross Memorial at the War Memorial 9/10/21
On Friday, I watched, along with perhaps a thousand others, the OPERATION WE REMEMBER ceremonies. There I met Veterans Outreach Center Executive Director Laura Stradley. I saw Laura again later that day at the VOC’s Armed with Creativity Art Show (see POSTSCRIPT) and then again at the dedication event on Saturday.
Later in the day, I visited the the Brighton Veterans Memorial where shrines are placed in recognition of American soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan.
In a facebook posting, Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle described the vigil:
I was humbled to welcome a large group of veterans and family members to a vigil held at the Brighton Veterans Memorial, honoring the thirteen Americans killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul last week. They gave their lives working to get Americans and Afghans who served with our forces, out of the country. God bless these heroes and bring comfort to their families as well as to the families of all our troops serving overseas.
The VOC’s Armed with Creativity Art Show on Friday
The Vietnam Veterans Office on South Avenue
In August, the VOC dedication a monument to its’ Founders. As explained by Laura:
Founder’s Day and the monument recognizes the men who started the Center in 1973 at a time when appreciating people who served in war was not popular, About 150 attended the event, including four of the original founders. One man was unable to attend and one is deceased.
On my September visit, I met VOC staff member Michael Horn. A veteran, Michael recently moved back to Rochester from Elmira where he was the musical director of his church. The VOC arranged for Michael to work in the Center’s Stars and Stripes Flag Store that he calls a community of beautiful people.
Michael worked on Founders Day, describing the event as like a college alumni reunion with veterans and friends of many generations mingling and celebrating.
At Founder’s Day was Barry Culhane, creator of the Timeline at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester and a very close friend of VOC Founder and Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch.
The Timeline at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park once held a timepiece dedicated to 9/11.
UPDATE: This morning (9/13), Bob Lonsberry discussed the ceremony. After the ceremony ended, Bob came across Barry contemplating the Monument next to Timeline. In his on-air comments, Bob called Barry the “Father of the Vietnam War Memorial.” Bob also saw what I and others certainly have: the Monument looks very much like Stonehenge.
Sometimes the quieter moments can be the most poignant. During the ceremony, I wandered down to a bench a between The Guardian and the Crime Victims Memorial in the lower green area of the park. On my hand held SONY radio, I listened to WHAM’s special program on 9/11. I heard the tale of several NYRFD who miraculously survived while having to leave their captain dead in the rubble. One woman attended a memorial service in Shankesville, PA for her brother who was killed on Flight 93. At the service, the woman felt the presence of her brother when, just as was asking him to send a message, she came across a perfectly preserved squirrel’s nest.
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