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Thursday, July 25, 2024


Sept. 11, 2002 – Virgin Islanders, like millions of other Americans, stepped away from their daily routines Wednesday to remember the events that brought life to a halt in New York, Washington. D.C., and western Pennsylvania one year ago.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were recalled at a noonday ceremony in Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas. Dozens of residents and tourists joined Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and members of American Legion Post No. 164 in honoring the victims and survivors of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and an airplane that had been destined to strike another target.
"The attack on America was an attack on all of us, and those who perished were martyrs, innocent people who went to work and lost their lives," the governor said.
Firefighters rang the massive replica of the nation's Liberty Bell mounted in Emancipation Garden in "four series of five," the traditional sounding to salute their dead. Hundreds of those who lost their lives that day were members of the emergency services who rushed to the rescue.
Representatives of the V.I. Fire Service, Police Department and Emergency Medical Service shared reflections of the roles they play in times of disasters that can occur at any moment. "As a firefighter, I know and accept that I can die, people can die," Ian A. Williams Sr., Fire Service director, said.
The role of emergency workers also played a part in the commemoration held Wednesday morning at Charlotte Amalie High School. There, students cheered a caravan of emergency vehicles that arrived on campus in the midst of their outdoor assembly.
Students offered prayers and held a flag-raising ceremony leading to a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the moment a year ago when the first commercial airliner struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Principal Jeannette Smith told the students that the thought that domestic planes could be turned against the nation as weapons of attack had been incomprehensible until the day it happened. But now that the events of Sept. 11 are part of history, she said, they should serve as a reminder of the values America stands for and which Americans have to defend.
"Freedom doesn't come easy," Smith said. "It often comes at a terrible price."
Unlike students and government personnel who were called to take part in ceremonies and parades, V.I. visitors made a deliberate choice to join in the local commemorations. Several of those on hand at Emancipation Garden came dressed in red, white and blue, with American flags printed on their T-shirts and worn as pin-on boutonnieres.
One elderly woman from Atlanta came to the park with four daughters and a daughter-in-law in tow. Barbara Sanders, one of the daughters, said they were there "because we're part of it. We're all wearing our ribbons, and we feel the same way you do." She added, "Our hearts go out to the ones that lost loved ones."
Local resident Pamela Allen said she came out because she wanted "to show respect." Another resident, Sheila Jasper, said she was there to express solidarity. "Sometimes you think we're too far removed from the world," she said. "It can all change in a moment's time. We need to be reminded."
The governor concluded the ceremony by reading a proclamation calling on Virgin Islanders to remember Sept. 11 for the actions that were taken against the country, the lives that were lost, and the national resolve that it shall never happen again.

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