A warm and sunny morning welcomed about 60 people to the 9/11 Memorial in Morris on Wednesday, there to commemorate a somber anniversary.
Residents joined with local leaders, emergency responders and members of the John Martin Steele VFW Post No. 6049 Color Guard to honor those who lost their lives 18 years ago, when terrorists launched an attack on the country that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Morris Police Department Chaplin Steve Larson led the memorial, which began at 7:30 a.m., with a prayer of remembrance for those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Members of local law enforcement talked about the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, and how they sacrificed their own lives in the effort to save others.
“We remember and we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice when members of a radical group attacked us that day,” Morris Police Chief John Severson said. “They also meant to destroy us, to destroy our spirits. In that, they failed. On that day, we set aside everything that divides us and we became Americans again. We united against evil and we stood strong.”
Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley recalled his memories from that day.
“I remember getting a call from my wife, asking me what happened, what’s going to happen, and what do we do, and not having the answers to those questions,” Briley said. “But I do remember that night, going home, looking at my kids and calling my mom and dad and some friends, and just remembering how short life can be and that we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring for us. I remember on Sept. 12 and the days after, we came together as a country. We weren’t Republican or Democrat, we weren’t white or black, we weren’t Catholic or Methodist, we were all Americans.”
Larson asked those in attendance to remember daily the people who continue to protect the country’s liberties.
“Every year at this time, we take a moment, and we remember, and we are so thankful for all that we have because of those that paid the ultimate price, and because of those who are willing to serve every day,” Larson said. “We are who we are in America because we will not quit. We will not back down, and we will not bend the knee to those who would come in to try to take us over and do us in.”
The ceremony concluded with an arms salute and the playing of Taps.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 people in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 was brought down when passengers retaliated against the hijackers.
Since then, more than 500 New York City police and fire first responders have died from exposure to hazardous materials at Ground Zero.
The federally funded Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund has processed 24,907 claims, as of Aug. 31, according to the VCF website.
More than 72,000 first responders and survivors have received care from the World Trade Center Health Program, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also notes that it is estimated more than 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants and other risk factors following the attacks.