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For whom the bell tolls: Fox Valley communities remember Sept. 11

The city Elghosted annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Wednesday morning front police station.   | JLangham/For Sun-Times Media

The city of Elgin hosted the annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Wednesday morning in front of the police station. | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 15, 2013 6:34AM

Angela Horner joined fellow teachers and their charges from the Tom Thumb Community Child Care Center in Carpentersville as they walked to a field of American flags set up near Fire Station One late Wednesday morning for an impromptu preschool-size civics lesson.

“We thought it would be nice for the kids to see the colors of the flag and its patterns and to teach them a bit about the stars and stripes,” she said. “And it’s a way to teach them about firefighters and police and all the good they do.”

The flags on display off Spring Street in Old Town are there to honor the 343 New York City firefighters and 60 NYC and Port Authority police who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2011, in the aftermath of terrorists flying two planes into the twin World Trade Center towers that morning.

Similar moments were happening all over the nation and the world Wednesday in ceremonies and events held to mark the terrible events of that day 12 years ago, when more than 3,000 died after al-Qaida terrorists attacked New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., with commercial airliners. Passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 93 thwarted a further assault on the nation’s capital, with that plane crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

A solitary plane cut through the skies Wednesday morning in downtown Elgin, its noise a reminder that on Sept. 11, 2001, all flights were cancelled that day, and for a time afterward.

Elgin remembers

In Elgin, the sentiments in the Patriot Day memorial held on the steps of the city’s police department headquarters mirrored in part the feelings stirred by the rows of tagged flags in Carpentersville.

City Councilwoman Anna Moeller reminded those present that more than 400 first responders lost their lives that day. Now, Sept. 11 is set aside to “recognize and commend our own heroes in our own community,” Moeller said.

Judson University President Gene Crume Jr. noted that the day of infamy now is not only a time of remembrance but also a call to public service. People want to live in the United States, he said, because of days like 9/11, which showed the nation’s resolve and spirit.

Crume also recalled four natural disasters: a forest fire near Peshtigo, Wis., in 1871; a hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900; and the nationwide heat wave in 1980; and a school massacre in Bath Township, Mich., in 1927 to point out that “this is an amazingly resilient country” — and one that tries hard to look out for its underprivileged.

Fire Chief John Fahy told the gathering that his daughter texted him from college: “Thinking of you today, Dad,” on the day set aside to remember and work to assure that such events never happen again.

The ceremony included the tolling of a bell, a traditional way to mark that a firefighter lost his or her life in the line of duty and was returning to quarters one last time. Wednesday in Elgin, it rang for all those who died in the attacks of 2001, with Fahy also noting the four Americans killed Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya.

Master of Ceremonies Tricia Dieringer — a former commander of Elgin’s American Legion Post, its Americanism chair, and an administrative assistant for the Gilberts Police Department — called Wednesday “awesome” and a chance for all to “stand in their work clothes and continue to work for freedom, justice and democracy.”

“It’s not just Sept. 11,” Dieringer said. “It’s an opportunity to refortify ourselves to a commitment to our country. May we always stand tall.”

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