Sept. 11, 2006 – Everyone remembers where they were when the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City. On Monday, five years after the original attacks, members of the American Legion remembered the day.
The Legion is made up of retired military professionals in the island. There are five posts in the region: three on St. Croix, one on St. Thomas, and one on St. John. District 10 Commander Lawrence Bastien began the proceedings.
"Every year we [remember] this day with a ceremony of some sort because the unexpected came and it can happen again," he said.
"A Day Never Forgotten" was the theme of the ceremony. Instead of having the publicized "America Supports You Freedom Walk", the Legion decided to have a motorcade through the town of Christiansted to their headquarters.
Within the walls of Legion Hall, police, firefighters and members of all branches of the military, those retired and on active duty, came out in force to share their grief and celebrate the life they fight so hard to maintain.
The veterans making up the Legion range in age from mid-30s to late 80s. Each one of them felt a connection to the attacks on the Towers and Pentagon on that fateful day.
"I have a lot of trouble with it," said retired Air Force officer and WWII veteran, Robert Vaughn. "Anyone who's been through war has to suffer all over again," he added.
The day was one for expression and remembrance of the gravity of the terrorist attacks and the possibilities of bio-terrorism.
Brigadier Gen. Eddy Charles of V.I. National Guard spoke about the importance of the war on terrorism. He said that when he saw the Towers fall, he knew it was war.
"The armed forces of the US will not rest until the enemy is satisfactorily destroyed," Charles said.
Fire Chief Ovaldo Graham noted the bravery of the firefighters who were "going into the rubble while others were running away." He stated four V.I. firefighters went to Ground Zero after the attacks and were of great help to New York firefighters.
Davidson Charlemagne was among the four. At 27, Charlemagne explained they simply wanted to do something to help. V.I. firefighters banded together and were able to raise $47,000 to aid in the recovery. They were asked by the V.I. government to present the money to the comptroller of New York.
While in New York, the firefighters were among those who had the heartrending job of pulling dead bodies from the rubble. "I saw many firefighters crying," he said somberly. "It's something I wouldn't do again," he adds, his head slightly bowed. "The sorrow and pain of it, even today gives me goose bumps."
The day was not all sadness and grief. Cenita Heywood, a retired air force officer and a member of the Legion, was celebrating her birthday. Heywood shares the birthday with her twin sister Carmen, her brother Herman, and her cousin Charmaine Felix.
At the time of the crash she was working at St. Croix Educational Complex in the audio/visual department. "My aunt was on the bus going to Atlantic City and saw the plane turn," she remembers. The worst part of the day came when the family was unable to locate twin sister Carmen who was supposed to be on a plane. Good news came later when they found out she was safe in Puerto Rico.
Police Chief Novelle Francis said he still felt "goose bumps as the bell was tolled and sirens [went] off." He said the attacks "taught us all a lesson of survival."
Francis said that officers are being trained differently as a result of the attacks. "We have come a long way but there is still further to go," he said.
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