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St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Anderson sings as Father Terrance Morgan, Pastor of Cathedral Basilica Parish, and Wayne Sims look on during the City’s Ceremony of Remembrance held in the Plaza on September 11.
The City of St. Augustine joined communities across the nation on September 11 to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks of a year ago. Over 500 residents and visitors to the city gathered in the Plaza de la Constitucion for a Ceremony of Remembrance at 8:15am.
Mayor Mark Alexander opened the ceremony by reminding those gathered of the ceremony’s purpose.
"We are gathered here together this morning, to remember the events of one year ago, to remember those we lost, some known to us personally, most known only as innocent victims and to remember those who gave their lives to save the lives of others," said Alexander. "We are also here to reaffirm our commitment to our nation’s war on terrorism and to the values on which our country was founded."
After the presentation of colors by a St. Augustine Police Department Color Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance, Father Terrance Morgan, Pastor of Cathedral Basilica Parish led those gathered in an opening prayer and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Anderson offered a stirring rendition of the Alan Jackson song Where Were You.
The event did not include speeches, but Wayne Sims, a well known community leader shared words from three Presidential speeches: from George W. Bush’s comments on the 6-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks; from Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address; and from John Kennedy’s first inaugural address. (Click here to read the excerpts.)
As the reading concluded, guitarist Rick Kuncicky offered an acoustic performance of America the Beautiful that stirred a spontaneous reaction from the audience as they joined in by singing the song.
In his own remarks, Mayor Alexander recalled the past year’s events and the lessons learned.
"In the weeks and months that followed that day [September 11, 2001], each of us became deeply aware of our sacrifices. Some of us lost family members or friends, some of us had a family member who was called to serve in active military duty. We all gave up a sense of security that day and in many respects some of our innocence when we no longer could say ‘That could never happen here.’
"But even in all of our loss, we have also gained a great deal. We have gained a renewed pride in our country and a renewed commitment to the fundamental values of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and I believe we have gained a renewed thankfulness for the simple things in life."
At 8:46am, the exact time the first plane impacted with the World Trade Center, Mayor Alexander called on all those gathered to join in a moment of silence.
"At this time, I ask that we join together in three minutes of silence to remember those we lost one year ago today, both the innocent victims of terrorism and those who gave their lives to save the lives of others, and let us also recall the strengths of our nation and the liberties we all enjoy," said Alexander.
Bells from the towers of the Cathedral-Basilica Catholic Church, Trinity Episcopal Parish and Flagler College all rang in unison breaking the silence in what was referred to as a Rejoicing of Bells signifying our nation’s ultimate victory over terror.