Members of the Meredith Fire Department salute during the town's 9/11 remembrance ceremony. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
September 16, 2021MEREDITH – People gathered to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, remembering those who died and sharing messages of honor and resilience.
American Legion Post 33 hosted the annual observance in Hesky Park on Saturday afternoon.
Pat Kelly emceed the event. Members of the Lakes Region Chordsmen, the Concord Coachmen, and the Seacoast Men of Harmony joined together to sing the National Anthem and "God Bless America."
A member of the Meredith Fire Department rang the "four fives," a bell ringing that announces when a firefighter has died.
The center of Hesky Park was covered in 2,977 small American flags, one for each life lost in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Selectman Jeanie Forrester said around 6 a.m. the previous day a group of people from the veteran's support organization Humble Gruntwork laid out a grid for the flags and by 1:30 p.m. around 40 community volunteers came out to help plant the flags in the park.
"America changed that day forever and I would ask all Americans to remain ever vigilant to remember (so) this never happens again," said American Legion Post 33 vice commander Scott Frank.
Frank honored the late Post 33 commander Bob Kennelly, who started the 9/11 memorial right after the attacks.
"I am confident he's looking down upon us with great pride at an impressive gathering today," Frank said.
Forrester recalled a speech from the late state Sen. Carl Johnson, who said much had been said about people in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he wanted to note how Americans are more likely to be in the right place at the right time to do good for each other.
"The lessons of Sept. 11 can be as uplifting as they are tragic," Forrester recalled from Johnson's speech.
Lt. Mike Harper from the Meredith Police Department said Sept. 11 holds a special meaning and changed the lives of Americans.
"(Sept. 11) reminded us that life is precious, there's no room for hate," Harper said. "Make no mistake the American spirit is alive and well…Never forget the men and women who lost their lives that day."
Fire chief Ken Jones honored the victims including the hundreds of first responders who died during the rescue efforts and who died of illnesses after the relief efforts, including hundreds from New England.
"As we pause to remember such a tragedy, be sure not to forget," Jones said. "Keep all in your prayers and thoughts."
Board of selectmen chair Jonathan James remembered the tragic day from 20 years ago.
"Today we stand here to remember the day and the people who lost their lives and we pray that nothing like this ever happens again," James said. "Our country came together after 9/11 and we need to continue to do this today."
Ralph Ascoli of Hooksett remembered his sister Debbie Manetta, who worked on the 93rd floor of the North Tower and died in the attack. She went to work that day after taking her daughter to nursery school as her husband worked as a sergeant on the NYPD.
"She was an angel on earth and she's my angel in heaven," Ascoli said.
Ascoli urged people to drop grudges and show affection for their loved ones,
"Remove the hate, remove the anger, remove the negativity, connect with the love inside of you," Ascoli said.
Elliott Finn of Meredith, a veteran of World War II and Korean War, talked about the first responders who perished that day.
"They had sworn to (protect) citizens and rushed into those crumbling buildings to keep that oath," Finn said. "Instead of saving lives they joined them forever in death."