MEREDITH — The town yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that claimed the lives of 2,996 men, women and children in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania by remembering their deaths and celebrating their lives at a ceremony in Hesky Park, sponsored by State Senator Jeanie Forrester and hosted by American Legion Post 33.
Reminding everyone of the immediacy of the tragedy, master of ceremonies Pat Kelly of WEMJ radio began by remarking "we're feeling like this just happened." The Lakes Region Chordsmen sang the National Anthem and all remained standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then Deputy Fire Chief Tom Joslin struck "The Four Fives" by ringing a brass bell five times in four series separated by slight pauses, a tradition to honor fallen firefighters and dignitaries dating at least to 1865 when the New York City Fire Department signaled the passing of Abraham Lincoln.
Speaking for the police, who lost so many of their counterparts, Lieutenant Keith True said that we are all routinely reminded of the event by the emergency number, and "some are reminded where there's an empty seat at the dining room table." By doing our jobs and attending these memorials, he added, we defy terrorism.
"I have a very short little message," said Joslin, who urged his listeners to tell their public officials, especially their congressmen and senators, to ensure that those whose health was impaired by responding to the collapse and clearing the sites of the towers at the World Trade Center receive the medical care they require and deserve. Then, his voice breaking, he read "The Fireman's Prayer".
Nate Torr, chairman of the board of Selectmen, asked everyone to pause, look around and appreciate "how fortunate we are". He recalled that after winning freedom in the Revolutionary War and expanding it in the Civil War "our freedom is again being challenged" and, unlike other wars America has fought, "the struggle has been brought to us."
Holding a picture of his sister Debbie Manetta, who died at 31 in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Ralph Ascoli said "there is a story behind every face," asked everyone to remember then played Brad Paisley's rendering of "When I Get Where I'm Going" with the line "Don't cry for me down here." Kelly remarked "that's great music to think by."
Senator Jeanie Forrester, noting that the innocents who perished were "in the wrong place at the wrong time," recalled the words of her predecessor, the late Carl Johnson, who at an earlier ceremony took another lesson from the tragedy, namely that "as Americans we're more likely to be in the right place at the right time" to help those in need.
Bob Kennelly of American Legion turned on the terrorists, charging "they don't like our freedom, they don't like our religion and they don't like women." New Hampshire, he continued, was fortunate to have Governor Maggie Hassan, Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, Congresswoman Ann Kuster and State Senator Jeanie Forrester. "I like our freedom, I like our religion and I really like our women," he declared. "If you treat the women right, they will work well for you."
Elliot Finn, a veteran of World War II, with a hand from Kennelly, laid a wreath in Meredith Bay and a dozen Monarch butterflies were released over the water. "There goes freedom," said Kelly.
Alicia Gorrell, American Legion Auxiliary Chaplain, offered a prayer the ceremony closed to the haunting strains of Taps.
CAPTION: Service Officer Bob Kennelly of American Legion Post 33 speaks at the ceremony commemorating September 11 at Hesky Park in Meredith yesterday. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)