It was hard to find a dry eye as speakers spoke about September 11, 2001 during Tamaqua's annual September 11 Remembrance Service held last night at the New Life Assembly of God Church in Tamaqua.
Beginning the service, event organizer Shelly Bonser, read a letter from past Tamaqua Pastor and soldier Paul Lynn, who is currently stationed in Afghanistan. Attending a candle light vigil in Afghanistan, Lynn stated in his letter, "I not only remember that day, but all the wonderful citizens of Tamaqua who serve as true patriots for God and our country." He continued, "It has not been in vain. Truly if the United States forces and allies around the world were not here, we would be experiencing further 9/11's."
Bonser added that in addition to the 2,966 victims and heroes of 9/11, the service was also held in memory of the late Thomas "Tom" Hartz Sr. and John "Jack" O'Brien Jr. for their many years of firefighting and volunteer services to Tamaqua and surrounding communities.
The service, sponsored annually by the South Ward Playground Association, continued with Master of Ceremonies Richard Hadesty introducing Rev. Ed Noftz, who gave the opening prayer.
Rosemarie Noftz and her daughter Michaela, 13, impressed the audience with their duet of God Bless of America.
Tamaqua Salvation Army Major Sharon Whispell, recalling her time at ground zero two weeks following the attacks, said, "Our mission of the Salvation Army is to serve others and support those in need." She added that within 30 minutes after the first plane struck, Salvation Army volunteers and Corps members were at ground zero and Pentagon City serving food and providing emotional support to those in need.
"We all know live on the front lines," said Senator Dave Argall. "It's not just the military that has kept us free, it is also our first responders."
Representative Jerry Knowles, who recalled a visit to a memorial in Harrisburg, said, "As I stood outside the Capital, the Governor talked about September 11, 2001, and he reminded us that the day started off like most days." He added, "I can remember the days following those events." "We weren't Republicans, we weren't Democrats, we were Americans."
"This is a history lesson," said Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison. "Very few times has anyone attacked us on our own soil." Praising military, emergency responders and all Americans, he ended by saying, "We are a vigilant nation."
"We gather here as a community and talk about what is important," said, Micah Gursky, Tamaqua Borough Council President. "As a father of three children, it is important that we continue to talk to each other and our children about September 11."
Iraq war veteran Andrew Leibenguth, who recently spent two days visiting the National 9/11 Memorials in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, spent time reading the casualty totals from the attacks, as well as displaying some of the many photos he took from his trip via a musical slideshow shown on the church's projector.
Also speaking were District Attorney Karen Byrnes Noon, Schuylkill County Commissioners Gary Hess and George Halcovage, Lansford American Legion Rider Joe Butrie, Schuylkill County Sheriff Joe Groody, attorney Matt Cartwright and South Ward Fire Company firefighter Kim Shilko, who read aloud the Fireman's Prayer.
The event also included special musical selections by Dollinda Linkhorst.
In addition to the volunteers and speakers, Bonser stated her appreciation to Charles X. Block for donating the balloons and Edward's Flowers for donated the flowers.
"We are so thankful to everyone who took the time tonight to join us at our 9/11 memorial service," said Bonser. "May God Bless you all."