Patriotism, laughter, tears at 9/11 commemoration ceremony
PRESCOTT - Perhaps the most poignant moment of Sunday's ceremony to commemorate the lives lost in the 9/11 terror attacks was completely spontaneous.
A Prescott Fire Department ladder truck screamed by the Yavapai County Courthouse, headed south on Montezuma to an emergency call, prompting the speaker, Laura Molinaro, a retired Commander with the Prescott Valley Police Department, to stop and wait for the siren to fade. When it did, she said, "There they are, folks, your first responders."
The crowd broke into applause.
It was a fitting moment in an event that honored those firefighters, police, and other emergency crews who ran toward the World Trade Center when everyone else was running away from it.
Hundreds of people packed the grass of the courthouse plaza to sing, listen to speakers, and remember those who lost their lives in the attacks.
Among them were Jamie and Jerry Shipman, retired U.S. Airways employees who lived in Phoenix in 2001 and moved to Prescott this spring.
"We were both at home, we didn't have the TV on," said Jerry, a former pilot. "The phone rang and it was our kids looking for us. We flew to New York all the time" and their children were worried they were involved.
When the government allowed airline flights to resume, he said, "I was one of the very first flights to go back into New York from Phoenix. I flew right over Ground Zero, and from my cockpit window, I looked straight down onto it."
But the memories fade, Jamie, a former flight attendant, said. "People forget, as time goes by. The impact of it doesn't really sink in anymore."
Although the painful memories are dredged up every year at this time, she said, this year has more meaning. "This is an opportunity to stand up to the evil and the terrorists and to come together and show our strength."
Maxine Dillahunty of Prescott was at the courthouse Sunday afternoon. She said she's seen the extreme patriotism of the days immediately following 9/11 fade. "We blow through trends. Unfortunately, we've lost a bit of that. It takes things like (ceremony) this to bring (that feeling) back."
Speakers at the event included Dina Mountcastle, who was working in New York City on 9/11. Now a resident of Dewey, Mountcastle gave a tearful account of what life was like that day, as she made her way to the office during the attacks.
"The ground shook and people screamed and lost their footing," she said. "Only later did I find out this was the second plane hitting the other tower."
"My co-worker and I stood out in front of our building, watching the burning towers, and I remember asking him, 'Who hates us this much?'" she said.
Mountcastle talked about the people who helped in the time of need, from the firefighters to the random people who offered food, water and clothing to victims, to the civilians who tried to help their trapped co-workers in the towers escape. Wiping away tears, she continued, "I heard recently, on television, an interview with the brother of someone who died that day. He said, 'Heroes rarely die of old age. They die being heroes.' "
"I witnessed, first-hand, the acts of humanity that came out of an act of terrorism," she said. "What better revenge for such hatred than the compassion shown by New Yorkers and the entire country that day?"
Rep. Paul Gosar spoke, as did Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
Bennett joked that he should have tried to move the state capitol back to Prescott while he was in the legislature, but given the state of affairs there, he said, perhaps Prescott is better off without it. He also picked up a guitar to sing a song written by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch honoring those buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The two-hour program concluded with a rifle salute and "echo taps," played by trumpeters who lined Gurley Street.
On the program but unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts were Gov. Jan Brewer and Senator John McCain.