Days like today are often described as severe clear... The sun shining brightly in a crystal clear blue sky.
That's how it was in New York City on September 11, 2001. And that's how it was in Litchfield Beach, at Midway Fire Station 81, on September 11, 2011.
Several hundred people gathered before a memorial, covered in a patriotic towel, awaiting its unveiling.
The Knights of Columbus brought in the American Flag, as hands flew to hearts and foreheads in a show of respect. Retirees stood beside children, firefighters beside police officers, scouts next to clergy, and parents next to sons and daughters. They came to remember the men and women who not only died in New York, D.C, and Pennsylvania that day ten years ago, but those who have died since while protecting our freedom.
Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman introduced the Boy Scout who brought everyone together through his Eagle Scout project, Austin Meares of Troop 360. Austin was trying to decide what his project would be when he heard Midway had received a twisted piece of steel from the towers that fell. He knew then he wanted to make honoring the memory of 9/11 his mission.
He had one month to raise $9,000. He reached out to the business community, and the business community responded. As the cover was lifted from the memorial, the audience held its collective breath, and then burst into applause. It was a uniting moment.
Among those clapping, were four people who would share their 9/11 stories with the crowd. Midway Assistant Chief Jim Crawford was first to speak. He was working with a fire department in Pittsburgh 10 years ago. By midnight the night of 9/11, Crawford and his fellow firefighters arrived at Ground Zero. They stayed for days digging through the rubble.
Troy Hutchinson, also with Midway, was working with the D.C. airport authority that day. He told the crowd about responding to the Pentagon. He asked everyone to remember how the events of 9/11 brought us together. He asked that we not let time distance us from our feelings on that day.
Mike Fanning was a detective sergeant with the NYPD on 9/11 and worked in the hate crime division. He recalled delivering Christmas ornaments, sent by school children in North Carolina, to fire stations throughout New York City. He told about a card he still carries in his wallet from a young girl, Amanda, thanking them for their service.
And finally, the crowd heard from Angie Shoemaker, a retired employee from Cantor Fitzgerald, a company that lost so many that day. She shared emails she saved from co-workers who didn't survive.
The sun blazed, but people stayed.... to listen... to learn... to remember.
The men and woman who died helping others on 9/11, who went in as others went out, would do it again today.
Firefighters will tell you... It's who they are. It's what they do. It's in their souls.
During one of the speeches today, a call was toned out. Several medics and firefighters quietly, so as not to draw attention to themselves, moved toward their vehicles. The crowd stopped, many saluting, and waited in silence as the crews left to respond to someone in need. It was perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony.
Even on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, at a ceremony in their honor, they answered the call.