On 9/11, Martha’s Vineyard paused to remember the fallen

Legionnaire Edson Rogers played patriotic songs against the backdrop of colorful American, military service and Boy Scout flags. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Sunday an American flag waved in the breeze atop the Tisbury fire department ladder truck parked at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven. The truck, similar to many of the fire trucks that responded to an emergency call on a clear sunny morning on September 11, 2001, in New York City, recalled a day seared into the nation’s memory.

At 8:46 am and again at 9:03 am, Tisbury fire fighter Ryan Willoughby sounded a short blast of the ladder truck’s piercing horn, followed by ten rings of its bell by fire fighter John Sundman to mark the moments hijackers intentionally crashed planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing thousands of civilians.

Sunday morning approximately 200 Vineyarders gathered to remember the horrific terrorist attacks in New York City and the Washington, D.C., and honor the victims in a solemn ceremony on the brick pavillion outside the Vineyard Haven post office. They stood quietly before color guards made up of veterans from all military services from American Legion Post 257. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts stood in a line of respectful solemnity.

The crowd included fire fighters, police, emergency medical and military personnel, Scouts, and community members from Island wide. The ceremony included prayers, brief speeches, and patriotic music.

In opening remarks, Tisbury ambulance director Jeff Pratt recalled the many first responders who lost their lives on September 11 as they tried to save people in the World Trade Center’s twin towers, which collapsed within two hours after being struck by commercial airliners hijacked by terrorists.

“Their weapons that day were fire hoses, medical kits, and a profound sense of duty,” Mr. Pratt said, his voice choked with emotion.

“It was a time our nation was of a single mind,” he added. “I hope we have become a stronger country for it.”

Eagle Scout candidate Jessie Thomas, 17, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, provided a narrative of the events and timeline of September 11, 2001. He reminded those in attendance that the younger participants were not even born when the attack occurred.

American Legion member Edson Rogers played several rousing patriotic tunes on his trumpet. James Joyce added the poignant strains of “Amazing Grace” and “Going Home” on the bagpipes.

At the conclusion of the official ceremony, Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling thanked fire lieutenant Dan Feeney and American Legion post commander Ed Colligan for organizing the 9/11 event.

During the event standing a short distance away, representatives of the Vineyard Peace Council held up a Peace Sign flag and a placard promoting peace. Their presence prompted several negative comments from bystanders who questioned the appropriateness of the Peace Council’s decision to pick that morning to promote its message.

“This is about people who died as the result of terrorism, not about war,” one middle-aged woman said.

Richard Monaco, who served three tours in Iraq as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, shrugged it off. “If it wasn’t for us fighting for their freedom, they wouldn’t be able to stand there and protest,” he said as he stood in place, a member of the American Legion’s color guard.