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Tamaqua group continues Sept. 11 memorial tradition

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    Shelly Turner opens the Tamaqua Sept. 11 Community Remembrance service with a tribute to her late mother, Cecilia “Jackie” Jones, who organized the first such service in 2002. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see a photo gallery and a video. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    Emily Barrett leads the crowd in an a cappella rendition of “God Bless America.”

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    George Haldeman of Tamaqua’s South Ward Fire Company offers a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

Published September 12. 2018 11:25AM


Rain and overcast skies could not stop Shelly Turner from keeping the promise she made to her mother years ago to hold a memorial service on Sept. 11 every year.

More than 100 people of all ages gathered at the South Ward Playground on Tuesday evening to remember and honor all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, in what remains the largest terrorist attack ever perpetrated on American soil.

Attendees listened respectfully as local dignitaries spoke, musicians and singers performed, and veterans conducted ceremonies.

Turner spoke of her mother, Cecilia “Jackie” Jones, during her opening remarks. Jones was instrumental in creating the Tamaqua 9/11 Remembrance ceremony the year following the attacks. She passed away in 2015, but not before making her daughters promise to continue with the annual event.

The Rev. Ed Knoftz led those gathered in prayer, followed immediately by the singing of the national anthem by Alicen and David Hull.

Tamaqua Mayor Nathan Gerace served as master of ceremonies. In his remarks, he spoke of the country coming together that day.

“It didn’t matter if you were a Republican or if you were a Democrat. Everyone came together and you were just an American,” Gerace said.

State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill, added, “The front line of the war changed that day.”

Other speakers included Schuylkill County Commissioners Garry Hess and George Halcovage.

Tamaqua Councilman Tom Cara said even though that fateful day in 2001 was one of the country’s darkest hours, “It was also one of our finest hours” as Americans united in support for the victims and against a common enemy.

Micah Gursky, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, told the group to “Believe in something or in someone.”

In addition to the Hulls’ performance of the national anthem, Emily Barrett offered a beautiful a cappella performance of “God Bless America” as did Koreena Bittner who sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”

The military was represented by Air National Guard Sgt. Lacey Tyre Timony, Pennsylvania National Guardsman Justin Startzel, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Rich Schrepp.

Members of the borough’s fire and police departments were on hand and a member of the South Ward fire department recited “The Fireman’s Prayer.”

Members of the Tamaqua American Legion Post 173 performed a gun salute ceremony, and the event concluded with a performance of taps by Becky Hartranft and DJ Fredericks.

The South Ward Playground Association is the official organizer of the annual event.

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