On a day as bright and welcoming as Sept. 11, 2001, locals gathered at Independent Fire Company in Ranson for what has become an annual ceremony to remember the tragic events that befell the nation 12 years ago.
Dr. Henry Christie, chaplain of the company, led the event sharing, once again, the statistics that are now known of the loss of lives from the terror attacks on U.S. soil and their aftermath.
With a bell sequence, five-five-five, denoting a fallen firefighter, the ceremony began as Christie explained the display of hats placed on the table.
"Over 2,500 civilians were lost that day," he said as he referenced the United and American Airlines caps. "The flight crews and passengers were easily the first heroes in the fight against terrorism," he said.
The NYFD hat placed on the table represented 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives while the hats denoting the Port Authority and NYPD were representative of 37 Port Authority officers and one canine and 23 New York City officers who perished. The Army cap was placed for the 55 military personnel who lost their lives in the attack at the Pentagon.
Also on the table stood an empty and cracked frame for a photograph signifying the hole in the lives of the families left behind.
"The hole in New York has been filled; the hole at the Pentagon has long been repaired; the hole in Shanksville is now a memorial," Christie said. "The hole in the hearts of the families will never be filled."
Following Christie's remarks, Independent member George Harris shared his experiences of that tragic day in 2001. Harris, who has not spoken publicly prior to today's event, is a retired U.S. Secret Service member who was working in Building 7, on the 10th floor on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It's still hard to talk about," Harris began. "We were lucky enough to get out."
He went on to tell that the men working with him ran from their building, crossing the street to a high school.
"We told the staff there to get everyone to the back of the building in case something happened," he said. "Police were there who told us to leave...NOW!" Within two minutes, he said, as the tower fell, the school was covered in debris.
Harris and his co-workers gathered to take boats across the river to Hoboken, N.J., he shared.
"Decisions were coming out of Washington," he said. "We somehow got two city buses and were told to get back to D.C. The bus driver didn't even know where D.C. was but he was told just to follow the police cars," Harris said.
In speaking of the day, Harris told those in attendance, "It was the most horrible thing. I saw peole jump, I don't ever want to see anything like that again."