9/11 victims, first responders honored across town

A pair of ceremonies took place in town Monday morning to honor and remember the lives lost during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on its 22nd anniversary.

The town’s ceremony took place around 10 a.m. in Memorial Park, where Marblehead’s 9/11 memorial lies. Dozens came out to commemorate the lives lost that day.

Built in 2006, the memorial is dedicated to the lives of three Marbleheaders who were lost in the attacks, and three others who were killed in the line of duty during the War on Terrorism.

Dr. Frederick Rimmele and William Weems were aboard flight 175, the plane that hit the South Tower, and Erik Isbrandtsen was working on the 104th floor in one of the towers. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher N. Piper, Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Christopher B. Shay, and Rachel R. McKay gave their lives in service to their country.

At the ceremony, Marblehead Fire Chief Jason Gilliland echoed the importance of keeping the remembrance alive through future generations in an opening speech.

“As difficult as it may be to reflect and remember the events of that day, we must,” Gilliland said. “It is our sacred duty to ensure that the coming generations understand both the tremendous grief and unbreakable nature and national unity evoked by each passing anniversary of Sept. 11.”

Following Gilliland’s speech, “Taps” was played and Monsignor Timothy Moran led a prayer before Marblehead Fire Capt. Gregg McLaughlin and Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King each read the Firefighter’s Prayer and Police Officer’s Prayer respectively.

King also made a speech, in which he reminded those in attendance to continue to remember the lives lost and honor the first responders who risked their lives. He also spoke on the resilience of Americans.

“This is not only a day of remembrance. It represents a day that we pledge to continue to carry on with life in America without being paralyzed by fear that the terrorists intended to instill in our fabric that day,” King said. “They underestimated our country’s fortitude.”

At Epstein Hillel School, students and faculty came together for a presentation on the events of 9/11 and to see Marblehead Firefighter Todd Burt receive a specialty plaque for his work as a first responder.

Roughly 40 students from Epstein’s Upper School, grades five through eight, attended the program, led by Epstein teachers Miri Sharon and Sarah Boland. To prepare for the ceremony, students had been studying and researching the events that took place on 9/11 and the vital role that first responders have in ensuring the health and safety of the public.

Sharon and Boland led the students through an interactive presentation on the history and significance of 9/11, as well as that of the memorials that are in place to commemorate the lives lost, including Marblehead’s own memorial.

During the 2001 attacks, 343 first responders died, and 341 have since perished from post-9/11 illnesses.

After receiving an honorary plaque from the Jewish National Fund, which showed a picture of the 9/11 Living Fund in Jerusalem, Burt gave an emotional speech and lecture to the students in attendance, during which he emphasized the sacrifices that first responders made on that day.

“More than 9,000 firefighters responded that day to the World Trade Center,” Burt said. “Many of them were off duty. Many of them were at home with their families. They dispatched themselves to the World Trade Center because they wanted to help.”

“There’s one thing that firefighters and first responders have in common all over the world, and that is any firefighter and first responder just want to help,” he added. “It doesn’t matter how small or how big a situation is, they just want to be there to help.”

The students also viewed letters that were sent to first responders after the attacks, which are now in a collection called “Dear Hero.” After Burt’s speech, the students presented him with their own “Dear Hero” letters.

With all of the students having been born years after the attacks, Head of School Amy Gold spoke about the importance of teaching them about the events to ensure that future generations never forget.

“Many of us as adults remember where we were on 9/11 and we want to help these children understand how this changed history for America,” Gold said.

She added that the students learned a great deal about the attacks in social studies class, but that the school wanted the ceremony to also emphasize the work that first responders do.

“We also wanted them to focus on the first responders and the bravery of the people who are in their own community,” Gold said.