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Austintown, Vienna salute those who serve

Jeanne Eakins of the Fraternal Order of the Austintown Eagles cries during a speech about September 11 during a memorial service held Wednesday evening in 9/11 Memorial Park in Austintown. Photo by Allie Vugrincic

Lightning silently sliced the sky as the Steel Valley Pipes and Drums police and fire memorial band finished a rendition of “Taps” under stormy weather, and a Wednesday memorial in Austintown for the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, came to a close.

Several hundred people gathered in 9 / 11 Memorial Park on South Raccoon Road to remember the 2,993 people who died and honor first responders and others who put their lives on the line, both in duty and on that day.

“They ran into the fire,” Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said of those first responders.

Austintown police Lt. Mark Skowron, who spoke during the ceremony, said first responders are “beckoned to serve.”

“We as first responders, as members of our military, as citizens of this great nation answer the call,” he said.

Skowron visited the national 9 / 11 memorial in 2018 while representing Austintown at the National Homeland Security Conference in New York. The memorial rests in the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood.

“As you walk toward the memorial, the air becomes increasingly heavy and silent,” said Skowron. He described water falling to eternity and the bronze names of those who were lost.

The Austintown 9 / 11 Memorial Park is just one of seven in the country that include relics from all of the sites impacted by the terrorist attacks of that day, according to Austintown Trustee Jim Davis. Originally Trustees Park, the area was renamed in 2004 after Pat Connolly spearheaded an effort to build the memorial. The park includes beams from the 91st floor of the twin towers, bricks from the Pentagon, and an urn with soil from the site where the fated Flight 93 was brought down by its heroic passengers.

In July 2011, Vienna Fire Chief Richard Brannon and other fire officials traveled to New York City to acquire pieces of the World Trade Center which were brought back used to make the 9/11 memorial in front of the Vienna fire station.

Brannon said at Wednesday’s 9/11 remembrance, attended by more than 50 people, that throughout the day people stopped to see the special display. The display has a wreath placed in front of it by Girl Scout Service Unit 807 members.

“That day will never be forgotten and is the reason this fire department built that memorial. This day is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to remember those who have lost their lives and to pay tribute to all safety forces around the world,” said fire Lt. John Hinely, who was among those who went to get the artifacts.

Brannon said Vienna, along with Austintown and Bazetta, are the three local communities that have 9/11 memorial displays with artifacts from the World Trade Center. He said the community, businesses and residents contributed $6,780 for the Vienna memorial.

“We are proud to have it in Vienna. We must never forget 9/11 and why it happened. We never want to see it happen again,” he said.

Lt. Col John Kochanski of the Youngstown Air Base said there are events throughout history that people in different generations remember where they were, such as Pearl Harbor attacks during World War II, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, man landing on the moon, the Challenger explosion, and for many, 9/11.

He said he was getting ready to go to the air base that morning preparing for a major inspection.

“My wife called me and told me to watch television after the first plane hit the towers. I watched and told my wife that was no accident. I watched the TV and everything that happened. I had friends at the Pentagon. That day changed how we all live and look at our country. There were many changes at the air base after that.” Kochanski said.

Township Trustee Heidi Brown said it is important to always remember the freedoms that people have died for and those who continue to fight for.

“9/11 should not be remembered just for the attacks but also for how people around the world responded through their acts of kindness. It is important that this new generation not only learn about the attacks and the acts of heroism but the response to the attacks,” Brown said.