Local 9/11 Day Flag of Honor Across America event proves a solemn, yet stirring affair

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

“At least for a while, we were united in a pride for our country.”
Those words, spoken by Lt. Col. Derrick Sorweide at the 9/11 Day Flag of Honor Across America ceremony held Sunday, Sept. 11, spoke to the unity Americans found after being rocked by the events that took place that tragic morning 21 years earlier.
Men and women, young and old, in uniform or civilian clothing, were gathered there, at the Circle of Flags at Boulder Falls, to remember lives lost in an act of terrorism on the country. Sorweide was among several speakers addressing the solemn day that impacted the nation and, for many, changed perspectives of the world.
“The horrors of that day brought our country together in a way we had not seen since the 1980s,” he said. “We knew that the world for us had forever changed, though it was not always clear how.”

Lt. Col. Derrick Sorweide

He then described the United States Armed Forces’ subsequent mission to enter Afghanistan and Iraq to help their populations “establish less authoritarian and destructive types of self-government,” and pointed out that America and her allies have since experienced no major acts of terrorism. However, he said, that came at a cost.
To date, 9/11’s impact includes the 3,000 lost that day, plus the more than 6,000 resulting deaths and the nearly 7,000 deaths suffered by American forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It is fitting we have ceremonies like this,” he said. “We cannot and should not forget that day or the people we lost, but we should not continue to blame that tragedy for where we are today. We need to let go of that pain and anger, that fear. We need to move forward.”
Army Sgt. Gianluca Paparo also spoke about the impact of that day and how it ignited a desire in the nation to answer the call of service.
“People saw something, and regardless of race, creed, background, even profession, people had no skill to respond to emergencies, and yet decided to step in and do it. And that’s what counts at the end of the day,” Paparo said. “Answering the call to be of service, regardless of what it is, is the point of humanity. To be of service is the greatest thing we can do as people.”
Whether people were born or not during that time, all people have at the end of the day is each other, he said.

Army Sgt. Gianluca Paparo

“If you don’t sit here and decide for yourself to be of service, then I believe we dishonor the memory of those who were. You don’t have to do grandiose things. You don’t have to be a one-man army. You don’t have to run into every burning building. That no more diminishes your service than anything. It exemplifies it because you’re willing to serve in any capacity. You’re willing to care for others. You’re willing to be there for others. You don’t have to know them. Most of the first responders and citizens that ran into the trade towers, they didn’t know people in there. They just knew people needed help. People needed their service.”
It doesn’t matter what uniform you wear, or whether you even wear a uniform, he said. As long as you’re there, you are there with others who are sharing the experience. And it’s those shared experiences that make losses easier to bare and drive people forward.
“It saddens me to think that it took a tragedy to bring us together 21 years ago,” Sorweide said. “Although many have died making the world a safer place, our current biggest threat is from within. Every one of us has the ability to either make our country stronger or to tear it further apart.”

Peer Court members raise the Flag of Honor.

During the ceremony, Youth Peer Court members erected flags designed with the names of those who lost their lives in the attacks. Before making their way to Lebanon, those flags were first set out at the grounds where the Flight 93 Memorial stands in Pennsylvania.
The ceremony was preceded by the national anthem, performed by 9-year-old Maddie Jones. Optimist Club member Paula Newman presented the opening and closing prayers. Demetrius Wilke and Nehanna Miles of the Youth Peer Court presented the 9/11 flags, and City Councilor Michelle Steinhebel read Lebanon’s resolution recognizing Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, 9/11 Day Flag of Honor Across America and a Day of National Service.
Lebanon was the first of 70 cities and tribes selected this year to lead the second annual 9/11 Flag of Honor Across America memorial to remember the nearly 3,000 people who died in 2001 when members of the multinational militant Sunni Islamic extremist network al-Qaeda hijacked four planes, using American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City and American Airlines Flight 77 to damage the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Passengers prevented the fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, from its intended unknown destination in Washington, D.C., crashing in Stonybrook Township, Pa.)
The Lebanon event also memorialized the six lives lost Feb. 26, 1993, in the World Trade Center bombing.
The city was also chosen among a limited number of test communities to lead a study of the Interactive, Education and Preparation community service learning project for 21 local youth.
Since they weren’t alive during the 1993 and 9/11 attacks, the program, launched through Global Youth Justice — which also initiated the 9/11 Day Flag of Honor Across America event — gave volunteer youth (partnered with local law enforcement) an opportunity to learn about the attacks and their ongoing repercussions.
The most important part of the day, Wilke said, is to never forget those who died on 9/11, who ran toward the danger to save lives, and those lost to illness, injury and other causes related to the attacks.

VOLUNTEERS DAVID NOBLE, Jenny Sheldon and Cassie Cruze display images of some who died from the 9/11 attacks.

The Flag of Honor event included the reading of 45 names of those who died that day, 20 names of those who died following 9/11 and eight names of children who died from 9/11, followed by two minutes and one second of silence for the 11 unborn children lost.
“I think the thing that sometimes we forget is, even though we read these names and we have these events, people are the crux and the focal point of all of this,” Paparo said.
Interactive class member Kierra Noble read a poem about the “survivor tree” – a Callery pear tree at the World Trade Center that was damaged but rehabilitated – while other class participants placed handmade “leaves” on a tree representing resilience.
“I believe – and I hope others do, too – that the premises on which our country was created are still rock solid,” Sorweide said, adding that many in the nation have fought to protect the rights of equality, freedom of speech and religion.
Not included, he continued, was the right to point fingers, belittle, name-call or become destructive or violent.
“Let’s work to remember what it means to be neighborly, charitable, polite, helpful, brave, philanthropic and diplomatic,” he said. “Let’s get back to flying our flags out of pride in what we and our elders have done, and not as a challenge of provocation. Let’s be that America. The one so many have died for. The one that holds us to noble ideals.”