WILMINGTON — The speaker at the 9/11 commemoration held here grew up in Wilmington, but on the day of the attacks he was on the job at the U.S. Capitol Building which may have been the target for the commandeered plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
In September 2001 Sam Stratman, now an adjunct professor at Wilmington College, was on the staff of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Stratman’s remarks outside Wilmington City Hall on Wednesday morning are below, printed verbatim.
“We gather to remember the thousands of innocents who perished on this date 18 years ago and to honor the selfless sacrifice of firefighters and police who perished for our safety on that terrible day.
“We remember where we were on that beautiful, cloudless Tuesday morning when the awesome gifts of our high-tech world were turned against us by cowards intent on seeking our destruction.
“Not a week passes that I don’t recall my personal recollections on that very intense day in Washington: our forced evacuation from the U.S. Capitol as a suspected aircraft bore down on us; the initial shock and disbelief among friends and colleagues, replaced quickly by a sense of resolve and purpose; the gentle tones in which we related to one another for months afterwards. For a moment, anyway, party politics was overtaken by demands for national unity.
“May we always continue to cultivate the spirit of service and bravery that motivated hundreds of firefighters and police officers to climb the stairs of burning buildings so that others might live.”
Stratman continued, “Every day, men and women of our armed forces confront face-to-face the hatred and violence of our enemies on battlefields all over the world. We grieve with families in our own community whose brave soldiers have died and been injured in defense of our freedom.
“We owe an unpayable debt to those whose gift of self, embodied in the performance of their duties, now rest in peace. We commend their eternal soul to the mercy of God in Whose kingdom every tear will be wiped away.
“But if we cannot repay the debt we owe our beloved dead, we may at least discharge some portion of it by being better citizens and neighbors ourselves. We may honor their sacrifice by building the kind of America they died for: a land of liberty and justice for all, a decent and tolerant society, a community of civic friendship, and a leader of freedom’s cause in the world. Thank you.”
The 18th anniversary ceremony also included Goshen Fire Department Deputy Chief and former Wilmington firefighter Ed Myers playing the bagpipes, an invocation from Sugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin, Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty tolling the freedom bell, Interim Wilmington Police Chief Ron Cravens providing a greeting, Wilmington High School student Emily Walls singing the National Anthem, the American Legion Post 49 Honor Guard according a 21-gun salute, Mike Sutton playing “Taps”, and hand salutes or hands-over-heart by multiple first responders from the Wilmington Police and Fire Departments and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.
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