LUDLOW, Vt. – Under bright bluebird skies Saturday morning, reminiscent of that morning 20 years before on Sept. 11 in 2001 in New York City, the Ludlow American Legion, along with Police, Ambulance, and Fire Departments from several surrounding towns, gathered before local residents to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost on what we simply refer to now as 9/11.
An enormous American flag hung from a hook and ladder firetruck beside the decorated Ludlow green and gazebo area. Ludlow’s portable 9/11 Memorial was erected along the Main Street side of the green with the names of all the victims from that day.
The event began with a solemn parade that stretched from Ludlow Fire Station along Main Street to Veterans Memorial Park, made up of local American Legions color guards, walking First Responders in either full dress uniform or complete tactical gear; and a string of emergency vehicles from the surrounding towns of Bridgewater, Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Mount Holly, Plymouth, Proctorsville, and included the Pink Heals truck and crew from Putney.
The ceremony itself was made more poignant and personal with the memories from local residents who had witnessed the tragic events of 2001 first-hand.
Cavendish resident Peter Labelle, who was in building no. 7 World Trade Center on that day, recalled the roar of airplane engines before the crash into the North Tower, which resulted in the silvery rain of glass outside his office window; the fiery blast of the South Tower being hit minutes later; and finally witnessing the death of a businessman who jumped from the North tower, passing by his window on his way to the pavement below; all before leaving the building and helping a colleague to safety uptown. LaBelle said that memorials like this were extremely important to remind us of our shared identity and that those shared memories must never fade.
Mount Holly resident Paul Faenza, who had been a sergeant of the NYC Police Department at the time, also spoke about how he arrived to Ground Zero after the Twin Towers had fallen, but was still there when building No. 7 collapsed later that day. He recounted his work over the next several weeks at Ground Zero: searching buildings; helping with remains recovery; evidence gathering; and participating in an informal honor guard when human remains were brought out to an ambulance. Having lost many friends and colleagues, Faenza said his sole purpose for speaking was to help keep their memories alive.
Other speakers included Baptist Pastor Jerry Scheumann and Ludlow Fire Chief Peter Kolenda. State Senator Alice Nitka recited a poem, and Cavendish Town Manager Brendan McNamara shared a letter received in honor of the 20-year anniversary received by former president George W. Bush.
Officers all stood at attention for the ceremonial “ringing of the bells” before the solemn ceremony came to its official end.
Following the ceremony, participants and guests were invited to the Ludlow American Legion for lunch and refreshments.