ST. MARYS — Community members gathered on the Diamond in downtown St. Marys Friday to commemorate Sept. 11 and all of the lives lost on that day 19 years ago.
Wreaths Across America of Elk County Founder Dolly Wehler said this is the first time the flag-waving ceremony has been held on Patriot Day.
WAA members, Elk County Catholic and St. Marys Area school students, police officers and others were seen waving American flags at the same times the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 – 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., while church bells also rang across town.
The St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail led the ceremony.
Mayor Lou Radkowski, the first speaker, said Sept. 11, 2001, is a day no one will ever forget.
“May we never forget the thousands that died on Sept. 11 across the country, may we never forget the families affected by that, may we never forget the military and the veterans who have gone off to protect us in the course of the after effects of 9/11,” he said.
Elk County Catholic School System President Sam MacDonald said he can remember where he was on Patriot Day 19 years ago — Washington D.C. It took him hours to figure out what was going on, he said, and he was in a building that had to be evacuated.
“Events like this are so important — these kids weren’t born at that time,” he said of the students in attendance. “Thank you to Dolly Wehler for putting this together and keeping this memory alive.”
ECCS student Mara Lecker sang the National Anthem, and other students also spoke about the day.
Wehler said this is the perfect time to display “unity” and American pride.
Wehler thanked everyone for coming, and told the audience about a personal friend of hers who was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, and still suffers the impact of it today, having been diagnosed with cancer.
“Those are the people who are heroes today,” she said. “I hope we do this every year. It’s a great way to honor those who are gone, and those who survived.”
Wehler noted that St. Marys Catholic Elementary School also was hosting a flag ceremony at the school, featuring a local fire truck, singing and commemorating the day.
For more information, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.