It was an emotional evening last night in Tamaqua as people gathered to hear a number of testimonies and speeches from area residents and dignitaries concerning the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I can hardly believe 12 years has passed," said state Rep. Jerry Knowles. "The two days that stand out in my 64 years on this earth are Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated … and Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001."
"My heart and prayers will always go out to those who lost loved ones that day," said Schuylkill County District Attorney Karen Byrnes-Noon. "The only thing they did was go to work.
"It is important to remember the still grieving families struggling day to day," added Noon. "Our country is diverse in so many different ways. The one thing that is united and unique is the American spirit."
"Today is a time we preserve in time, and we remember the past, " said County Commissioner Gary Hess, who stressed the importance of educating, remembering and continuing the story of when America's Freedom was tested. "This is why we need to hold these services like this and similar services that are being held across the country today."
"One of the things that I find special about coming to Tamaqua is your love of family, your love of your faith, your love of each other," said county Commissioner George Halcovage Jr. "It is so important to see such a tight community coming together when tough things happen."
He also praised all the first responders, and the South Ward Playground Association for displaying a Flag of Honor.
"Those of us born in the 90s or earlier, know exactly where we were 12 years ago on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001," said Tamaqua native Colonel Robert M. Balcavage, U.S. Army. "I was in Louisiana, at a training exercise, preparing for our deployment to Kosovo.
"While the mission in Iraq is complete, and Afghanistan winds down, the fight against terror goes on at home and abroad," he added. "For Americans firemen, police, office workers and servicemen, we run toward the danger, not away from it. Americans will continue to run toward danger if necessary so that we and others like us can enjoy the God-given truths of liberty, freedom from tyranny, self-determination and the individual pursuit of happiness."
Balcavage also asked that everyone remember those lost in the fight against terrorism. Two mentioned were Sgt. Jennifer Hartman, 21, of New Ringgold, and Sgt. Andrew Baddick, 26, of Jim Thorpe. He also gave remembrance for his friend Captain Jeff Bnosky, a Hometown native, who gave his life during Desert Storm.
"We as Americans, as Tamaqua citizens need to remain vigilant from national attacks to attacks to your community," Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison, who gave a shameless plug to the Tamaqua Crime Watch. "Keep an eye out on your neighbor. Keep an eye on your property, your neighborhood and your town. If you see something, don't let something happen. Be someone who takes charge."
Tamaqua Salvation Army Major Sharon Whispell, who said she grew up an hour and a half outside New York City, spoke concerning God's purpose of showing comfort. Whispell was told by Salvation Army headquarters that she would be deployed to the World Trade Center with other volunteers.
"When you wake up to start your day, you don't think about having a disaster or tragedy befalling you," said Tamaqua Borough Council President Micah Gursky, who talked about what has happened since the attacks and response to it. Gursky also recognized the people and local volunteers that respond to incidents and disasters regularly in our community. In addition, Gursky expressed his appreciation for the moment of silence given for longtime councilman and community volunteer Ken Smulligan, who unexpected passed away Monday in his home.
Gursky continued by giving special appreciations to volunteers Shelly Bonser, Lee Calkins, Michelle Mehallic and other volunteers for putting this event together every year.
Iraq war veteran Andrew Leibenguth, who read aloud numbers of coalition and American forces killed since Sept. 11, showed a narrated video slide show of photos he took while visiting all three national 9/11 memorial sites last year.
Adding to the array of speakers, Dollinda Linkhorst sang "My Country Tis of Thee," "Let There Be Peace" and "God Bless America" during the memorial.
"Certain dates are burned into our collective memories," said Lansford American Legion Rider Paul Zona. "The emotions we went through galvanized us as a country and gave us a sense of pride that we weren't about to give up … This is a national day of remembrance dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Let their memories serve to keep us ever watchful and unflinching in the face of adversity."
Starting the program, Master of Ceremonies Richard Hadesty introduced Pastor Ed Noftz of the New Life Assembly of God Church, who read the opening prayer. Mariann Shilko followed with the reading of the Fireman's Prayer.