On the 11th anniversary, the Village of Palatine held a memorial ceremony to honor the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.“9/11 is our generations day of infamy and we will never forget it,” said Palatine Firefighter, Mark Hallet.
In front of Palatine's Firefighter Memorial Tuesday morning Hallet said 9/11 forever changed Americans and people all across the world, “I think we see the images everyday.”
More than a decade later, the now retired firefighter said the images, events, emotions and everything else from that day are still clear in his memory and ingrained in the minds of firefighters everywhere. “The day this occurred meant a lot of us,” Hallet said, “We realized if that were here, we’d be in their shoes, climbing up the stairs of buildings.”
While the pictures and videos of firefighters running into the two burning buildings and then watching the Twin Towers collapse have proven to be unforgettable, Hallet said he tries to focus on a different image from that day. “The one that sticks close to me and my heart is the three firefighters lifting up the American flag,” said Hallet.
Accompanied by the Police and Fire Honor Guards Palatine Firefighters, past and present marched from Fire Station 85 at 39 E. Colfax Street to the memorial site as Palatine Firefighter Jeb Kaiser played the bagpipes.
Almost surrounded by emergency responders Hallet said, “The very fact of these people gathered around this memorial today bears testimony that we are a people willing to risk, so that others might have life.”
If a tragedy happened in this area, Hallet said firemen in Palatine would be the people running up the stairs of a burning building on the verge of collapse. Hallet said, “None of us would want to be there but we’d all go in a heartbeat.” According to Hallet it's their job as firemen but more importantly, it’s who they are as people, “I just grew up wanting to help people and that’s what we do, we help strangers on a daily basis.”
During the ceremony, emergency responders lowered the flag, had a moment of silence, placed a wreath at the memorial and performed a ceremonial ringing of the bell to signify a firefighter’s last call of duty to remember the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
Hallet said while the anniversary of 9/11 is a day to remember those lost, it’s also a day to remind people a disaster can happen anywhere and at anytime.
Palatine resident, Judy Starke said 11 years later she is still in shock. “It couldn’t have possibly happened here, this must have happened some place really far away, not here.” After the ceremony Tuesday morning Starke said she attended the memorial to remember and reflect, “Those images are just imprinted in all our brains, but it still seems unbelievable.”
An unbelievable act of terrorism committed on U.S. soil that was so tragic and so horrific, those who lived through it and watched it unfold still have a hard time comprehending it.
"No one could possibly forget what happened," Jolene Morris of Palatine said, "But how do we explain this horrendous and tragic act?” On the 11th anniversary Morris said, “We are at a point where we are starting to introduce a generation who did not live through it.”
This generation's day of infamy, Hallet said people everywhere need to remember those lost, appreciate those who risk their lives to serve the public and teach those who did not live it about America's darkest day.