While some communities canceled 9-11 ceremonies or held them virtually today, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts went ahead with its remembrance.
The annual ceremony had all the traditional elements: There were speeches recalling the bravery of the first responders and honoring the memory of the lives lost on September 11, 19 years ago. The tolling of the fire bell. The laying of a wreath. A rifle salute and the playing taps.
What was missing this year was the usual large audience.
Because of the restrictions on the size of crowds during the pandemic, the ceremony was limited to 50 people including participants.
Several speakers drew parallels between the attack on the country by terrorists and the current tragedy brought on by the coronavirus. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the unity on display in the country on Sept. 12, 2001 is what is needed now to overcome the pandemic and respond to the calls for social and racial justice.
"It is important that we mark this tragic anniversary, but it also important we mark us all coming together, no matter what creed, color, or background," said Sarno.
The annual ceremony has been held in Springfield since 2002. This is the second year it was held at Riverfront Park in front of the city’s September 11th monument. It was dedicated in June 2019 and features a steel beam from the World Trade Center and a curved bronze wall with the names of 498 first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Almost 3,000 people died when al-Qaeda hijackers crashed passenger jetliners into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in an open field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi said the heroism and dedication shown then by first responders epitomizes what public service is about.
" As we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day, we should also remember those around us who go to work everyday and their commitment to the community we serve to save lives and property," said Calvi.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said it is important that the annual remembrance be held because there is a generation of Americans who had not been born when the 9-11 attacks took place.
"Those first responders did not die in vain," said Clapprood. " That is what stays strong in us today."
The COVID-19 guidelines on crowd sizes in Massachusetts cut sharply the number of people who could attend, but there was never a thought given to canceling the ceremony, said Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield.
" I think it went fine," said Matt after Friday's ceremony. "We just have to do it, to have it, no matter what the restrictions."
The ceremony was livestreamed and recorded for later broadcast on Focus Springfield Community Television.