A solemn remembrance of heroism took place under somber skies near the Delaware County line on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Hundreds of people filled First Responders Park in Westerville for an hour-long noontime 9/11 Memorial Observance 17 years following the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. On that day of infamy, 19 terrorists hijacked four airplanes and launched suicide attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City within a half-hour, causing them to collapse. Another plane hit the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. The passengers on the fourth plane fought back, and the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. President Donald Trump visited the Flight 93 site in Shanksville on Sept. 11 as a new Tower of Voices memorializes the victims.
“A piece of America’s heart is buried in the these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93,” Trump said.
There is a piece of 9/11 in Westerville, too. Looming over the First Responders Park is C-40, a mangled, rusted piece of steel originally from the north tower of the World Trade Center.
“Bless Westerville and our surrounding communities,” said Westerville Police Chaplain James Meacham. “We will never forget.”
Meacham said that the city’s past 9/11 observances had honored public safety forces — firefighters, police, communications (dispatchers), and the military — on an annual basis. This year, a fifth group was recognized — civilians who take the time to help those around them.
“My heart says, you too are true heroes,” Meacham said.
Worthington singer-songwriter Eric Gnezda performed his song True Heroes: “True heroes are remembered for how they live each day / True heroes are measured by what they give away.”
Westerville firefighter David Theisen (1998), and police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering, all three of whom lost their lives in the line of duty, were remembered. A statue of Theisen, called The Crossing, is in the park.
“Thank you Lord, for they were true heroes, and they will always be,” Meacham said.
Dr. Nina Helene, a Columbus-based counselor, discussed her experiences as a volunteer at Ground Zero for the Salvation Army, which was closely involved in the recovery process. She also thanked several ministers, which she referred to as spiritual marines.
Helene said she had many duties, and remarked on citizens being united in crisis to provide “help, healing and hope” to more than 17,000 survivors. She said St. Paul’s Chapel, across the street from Ground Zero, served as her home for the months of volunteering. The first time she entered, she wept for five minutes after seeing all the cards and letters in support of those helping in the recovery.
Chaplain Jonathan Bull of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Westerville, urged those in attendance to “be instruments of hope, peace and love.”
The Silvertones from the Westerville Senior Center sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth” as the audience held hands. The American Legion provided a three-volley gun salute, Dan Carey played “Taps,” Mike Reiterman of the Norwich Township Fire Department played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, and the audience sang along to close the ceremonies.
The eastern portion of Delaware County also remembered 9/11. The 13th annual Gold Star Family Reception was held on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury. The event included a luncheon and a public ceremony.
Finally, the following announcement was made today at Big Walnut High School: “Much has changed in the years since 9/11. The events of that day have impacted not just America, but the world. We may be too young to remember the actual events of 9/11, but we’re not immune to the ripple effect. September 11th is a Day of Remembrance. As we pay respect to those who lost their lives on this day in 2001, remind yourself of the things you can be thankful for in your own lives.”