WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington hosted a solemn ceremony at the municipal building Friday morning commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in America.
One speaker, Terry Kerr, told about his experiences as a crew member on a tanker aircraft used for aerial refueling of fighter aircraft that were set up in the skies over New York City and Washington, D.C. promptly after the attacks in case more were coming.
This patrolling from above was called “a cap” over those cities, Kerr said.
His crew first went to the nation’s capital where they saw the damaged Pentagon from the sky.
The ground was scorched around the place the hijacked plane struck. And the facility itself “had a black hole in the side that looked like a huge cavern,” said Kerr.
His crew also was sent to NYC where the twin towers had already collapsed but were still smoking.
Eventually, the crew’s air patrolling coverage expanded to Florida where President George W. Bush was, and also to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“They were concerned about landmarks and all kinds of things,” Kerr recalled about the assignment to the West Coast. In particular, a potential attack on the Golden Gate Bridge was a worry, and Kerr’s tanker crew assisted in providing coverage for the bridge.
Clinton County History Center Executive Director Shelby Boatman was asked to say a few words on 9/11 and the field of history. She said the events surrounding 9/11 are recognized as a defining historical moment.
Because of contemporary technology, in particular communications technology such as film, still photographs, and recordings, the events of 9/11 are historically well documented, she added.
In opening remarks, Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth recited the names, ranks, ages and residences of the 13 U.S. service members killed during a suicide bombing and gun attack Aug. 26 at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan where people were gathered to try to get onto evacuation flights.
The mayor said the 13 names are to be added to those the nation lost in relation to 9/11.
Invocation for the 20th observance of 9/11 was given by Pastor Tom Stephenson of the First Christian Church.
“O God of all time and space; God of all moments that make up our lives,
“We are gathered in this enclave, citizens of Wilmington and Clinton County, but even more, citizens of this great nation. In the calm and relative peace of this moment, we cast our memories back to that horrific day 20 years ago when an unknown terror struck from the sky and severely wounded the hearts of all who love and cherish this democracy.
“We know the history of that crisis and the events that followed to bring justice to the perpetrators, to become more vigilant in protecting our people, and to understand better who we are as a distinct nation and what makes us unique in the history of the world: our capacity for compassion.
“There is much yet unresolved in our minds but today we pause to thank you for the spirit of courage you placed within the hearts of those who rushed into peril to save lives. We thank you for the sacrifice of those Americans who lost their lives to guide bewildered New Yorkers out of the towers, brave passengers who brought down a plane to prevent yet another attack, and those who have since perished because of the long-term effects of the smoke and chemicals their lungs absorbed to protect and serve. They deserve so much more than our gratitude, but it is the gift we have to offer; that and our willingness to do for others what has been done for us.
“O God, we ask that as we disengage from one war, that you would protect us from further conflict around the world and at home. Bring us to a fuller unity than we have known. Enflame our hearts with love for our sisters and brothers that America might lead the world by example — becoming children of light who dispel darkness.
“Lord, we know the global threats are many and terrorism has many names. So, we ask, on the occasion of this special observance, that by your mercy you would protect this nation and its people, bring peace to conflicted hearts, and help us do what we can to prevent the horrors and heartaches of another 9/11.
“This we pray in hope, resolute in our desire to love as we have been loved. May it be so in our time, O God. Amen.”
Other participants included the Wilmington Police Department and Fire Department, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and Board of Commissioners, a Wilmington High School saxophone quartet, a WHS student bugler who played “Taps”, a firefighter playing bagpipes, and the American Legion Post 49 Memorial Squad.