NEW PALESTINE — A steady rain continuously hit the top of the shelter at Sugar Creek Township Park. Underneath the wooden structure, a gathering of about 20 members of New Palestine American Legion Post 182 and their family members gathered despite the showers to pay respect to those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.
Sunday marked the 21st Anniversary of one of the most heartbreaking days in the nation’s history, when terrorists attacked the United States and killed 2,996 people who lost their lives at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and on United Flight 93 over Pennsylvania.
While the steady rain forced the group to seek shelter rather than participate in a planned ceremony surrounding the flags at the Veterans Memorial at Sugar Creek Park, the weather could not stop the sentiment as officials with Post 182 said it’s important to never forget what happened that day when so many innocent people lost their lives on American soil.
“We’re just trying to maintain awareness about the events that happened on September 11 because people do forget,” Post Commander Terry Ordille said. “Things seem to kind of fade away as times go on and we just can’t let that happen.”
Longtime Post 182 member and veteran Bill McCoy attended the gathering and noted the importance of September 11, 2001. He called the events of the day one of the most important in American history and said people need to take time and reflect on U.S. history.
“Those of us who lived through World War II remember the events of Pearl Harbor very well and we remember something like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy which was huge and for me; 9/11 is number three on the list of those tragic events,” McCoy said.
Following a prayer, and honoring the American Flag, former Post 182 Commander, Tom Ayer gave a heartfelt speech and noted last year during the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 many around the United States paid special tribute on the day, but he said this year things have been more subdued.
“It just seems like the days leading up to today, the official 21st Anniversary, there really hasn’t been really any real awareness, but we believe regardless of the year it is very important to remember all the people who lost their life that day,” Ayer said.
Plus, Post 182 wanted to remember and pay tribute to all the first responders who were so selfless that day and raced to save others only to lose their own lives.
“We want to thank them always for the work they do,” Ayer said.
During his speech, Ayer noted the events of 9/11 are something people who were alive that day must share with the youth of the country who really can’t understand what it was like on Sept. 11, 2001 — a horrendous day that will never be forgotten.
“What does it mean to say, ‘I will never forget?’ We all forget things all the time,” Ayer said. “But, in this case, we will keep this moment, this memory just as it was that day, forever.”
Ayer noted it takes an extraordinary effort in the form of stories, art work, holidays and holding events like the one Post 182 members did in order to make sure people reflect, share, if even for a few moments, and never forget how many lives were altered.
“Everyone here is a breadcrumb to tell the future what really happened,” Ayer said.
For Ordille, he’ll never forget where he was Sept. 11, 2001. Unlike most of the world that day, he was not glued to a television set. Ordille was camping in the wilderness with a friend. He found out about 9/11 several days afterward and had trouble believing it was real.
“It was all so unbelievable,” Ordille said.
Ayer was off work Sept. 11, 2001 and said he got word a plane had stuck the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., but didn’t think anything evil was a foot.
However, when he saw the second plane fly into the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., like most, he knew the crash was not an accident. Ayer said he and his wife then watched the events unfold in disbelief. The Pentagon was struck shortly after by another plane at 9:37 a.m. Then at 9:59 a.m. the South Tower collapsed. That was followed by the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania at 10:07 a.m. The north tower then collapsed at 10:28 a.m.
“It was an unbelievable and horrible day, a day we will never forget,” Ayer said.