Austintown remembers ‘cost’ of Sept. 11 attacks


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By JUSTIN DENNIS

jdennis@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

New York City’s St. Paul’s Chapel, built in 1766, stood through the American Revolution and lower Manhattan’s Great Fire in 1835. Even after dust and ash clouded Broadway on Sept. 11, 2001, the chapel stood.

For the next eight months, the church offered refuge for the first responders who put their own lives at risk to save others, state Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, said in his address to the several dozens gathered Tuesday at the 9/11 Memorial Park in Austintown.

“Where were you when it happened?” he asked. “Do you remember what you were wearing? Where you were standing? What you were doing?

“Where did you seek refuge? Where did you try to find meaning in such a colossal, tragic loss for our country?”

Each of those responders were patriots, along with others who wore no uniforms but bore the American spirit in their own ways after Sept. 11, Boccieri said.

The nation lost close to 2,500 airplane passengers and World Trade Center employees and their children; more than 400 firefighters and police and port authority officers. With residual health complications, the death toll still rises today.

“But what was renewed among us was a sense of patriotism; was a sense of idealism; was a sense that we can all make a difference in our communities by flying flags and having food drives,” Boccieri said.

Sam Swoger III, commander of the American Legion Memorial Post 301 in Austintown, said following Tuesday’s ceremony he feels Sept. 11 brought Americans closer together.

He said the township park dedicated to Sept. 11 and the memories of those who died that day — which includes wrenched metal I-beams from the World Trade Center, four rocks taken from the Pentagon and an urn containing earth from United Airlines Flight 93’s Shanksville, Pa. crash site — was the “dream” of Pat Connolly, Austintown Beautification Committee chairman.

Swoger said Connolly is often seen tirelessly tending to the grounds, though he was unable to make Tuesday’s memorial service.

“Pat sometimes wonders if people are forgetting about that day,” Swoger said. “I do and I know he does — but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he does out here.”

Mike Smith, the Austintown Fire Department chaplain who spoke before a bell tolled thrice — to signal a fellow responder had ended his duty — said he feels Americans developed “a different view” of freedom since the Sept. 11 attacks. The nation has learned “there’s also a cost” for security, he said.

“It’s tough, as the years go by, to get other generations to remember,” Smith said. “It’s tough to let them know the values we have now that (were different).”

Boccieri said the days and years following Sept. 11, 2001, saw a “rebirth of patriotism” in the country; a sense of belonging to something “greater than ourselves.” The day perhaps holds a lesson for Americans in 2018, he said.

“What has happened 17 years forward — it seems as if we’re more divided,” he said. “We’re a little bit more suspicious of each other.

“We need to get back to those principles that have endured and have made us strong in the past.”

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