Whitehall Borough Remembers 9/11 Victims, Heroes
Whitehall officials and residents gathered at the Edwin F. Brennan Plaza on Sunday to remember the victims and families of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The moments during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City; Arlington County, VA; and Somerset County, PA, left many Americans mourning and grieving for the losses on that tragic day that changed their country forever.
It has been a decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and people all over the nation are sure to remember and honor the victims of those attacks in some way.
Whitehall Council President Linda J. Book organized the event and scheduled it to start at around 8:30 a.m. so that it would coincide with the first attack 10 years ago—American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
Following that crash, three more planes—United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower, American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 into an open field in Stonycreek Township, a small community in Somerset County—were brought down as part of the attacks, as well.
About 40 residents, police officers and fire-company personnel attended Sunday's ceremony in Whitehall, which lasted approximately one hour.
“We all knew what year this was,” Book said, “and we had to do something. (The borough) has always been proactive with bringing the community together, and this is a time that is important to bring people together to remember.”
Book added that it's important to honor the people who were turned into victims and heroes that day.
Book remembers Sept. 11, 2001, clearly, as she is a dispatcher at nearby Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin Borough. She received calls from concerned family members that day who were worried that a plane from that airport might be hijacked.
All of the aircrafts from the county airport were ordered to the ground that day, and Book said that it was a relief when all of the jets were accounted for.
“It was a lot to deal with, emotionally,” she said.
Whitehall Mayor James F. Nowalk followed Book's presentation on Sunday with a few words of his own to remember the victims and heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“People of my generation relate this day to when (former President) John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and (the attacks on) Pearl Harbor,” Nowalk said. “Those under the age of 50 years will never have anything happen like what did on Sept. 11(, 2001).
"They destroyed the two largest buildings in America. If it weren't for the heroic passengers on Flight 93, they may have destroyed the White House or Capitol Building(, as well).”
The mayor followed his comments with a song to remember victims and heroes from that day—“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” by Alan Jackson, who dedicated the song to victims when it was released in November 2001.
Some residents became emotional as Nowalk sang next to a flagpole displaying a half-mast U.S. flag.
The event also included a 9/11 banner that had a Keystone State symbol and a depiction of the Pentagon within a “9.” The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center also were included in that banner (forming an “11”) along with the message “Never Forget.”
Nancy Lee Crowder read a poem at Sunday's ceremony that she wrote after taking a trip to the Flight 93 memorial site with her family.
“This hit a little too close to home for me because my husband, Bill, is a firefighter,” Crowder, also a Baldwin-Whitehall School Board member, said. “We went (to the memorial) on the fifth anniversary (of 9/11).”
The event concluded with prayers for firefighters and police officers.
“We need to respect all of the people who gave their lives (during 9/11 rescue efforts),” Whitehall Fire Company Chief Lee Price said. “This includes not only the firefighters and police but also the citizens who put their life on the line.”
“We must truly never forget what they sacrificed for us,” resident Victoria Scholl said. “All of our lives have been different since that moment.”
Whitehall's recently crowned Citizen of the Year Faustino Dunckhorst remembered that he was at home when he heard the news of the first attacks on Sept. 11, 10 years ago.
“There weren't many details yet,” Dunckhorst said, “but once the second plane hit, we knew there was something going on.”
Whitehall council member William J. Veith added that the events of 9/11 changed the lives of Americans forever.
“Everything we do has been affected by it,” Veith said. “We have to honor the heroes from that day.”
Chris A. Mooney, a candidate for the Whitehall Council, remembered how quiet it became at his workplace for AAA's Emergency Road Service department.
“We normally handle hundreds of calls,” Mooney said. “It amazes me how (emergency personnel) are trained to go do a job like this, and they don't even think about how they could lose their lives.”