FLUSHING — Two decades have passed since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but many Flushing residents are keeping the memories of that fateful day alive.
On Saturday, several local veterans and volunteers marked the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 with a memorial ceremony at Riverview Park in Flushing. Attendees paid homage to victims who died in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and during the hijacking of United Flight 93, while also commemorating first responders and ordinary citizens who saved lives that day.
Among those honored at the ceremony was former Flushing resident Todd Beamer, who helped to thwart a terrorist plan to crash United Flight 93 into the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11. Beamer, along with other Flight 93 passengers and crew members, stormed the cockpit and attempted to take back control of the plane from the terrorists.
Before engaging with the hijackers, Beamer made a phone call from the plane to an Airfone operator. His last audible words have since been memorialized: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
Altogether, 40 passengers and crew— including Beamer—died when the plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA.
Beamer, who was born in Flint and lived in Flushing until he was about six-years-old, was living in Cranbury, NJ., at the time and was an account manager for the Oracle corporation. He died at age 32, leaving behind a wife and three children.
The ceremony also honored U.S. troops who served and died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan after 9/11, including Senior Chief Petty Officer John Marcum.
Marcum, a 1991 Flushing High School graduate and U.S. Navy Seal, was severely wounded during combat operations in Afghanistan and died on Sept. 12, 2008—just hours after the 7th anniversary of 9/11.
Lucinda Hahn, a Flushing native and U.S. Navy veteran who helped to organize the ceremony at Riverview Park, said that people like Beamer and Marcum must always be remembered for their courage and putting their lives on the line for the country during and after 9/11. She also said that those who survived the attacks on 9/11 must also be recognized as part of the country’s healing process.
“We must never forget that day, for it has changed all of us,” she said. “I think we take a big risk if we don’t grieve and express how we’re feeling (about 9/11). Having fellowship with other people and doing something positive to honor those who aren’t here anymore—that’s a way that we can deal with this reality and start to heal.”
Hahn also read aloud the names of 13 U.S. troops who were killed in a terrorist suicide bombing two weeks ago in Kabul, Afghanistan.
John Freeman, a U.S. Marine veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, reminded audience members that the War on Terror is far from over, and that Americans of all different creeds and beliefs need to unite the same way many citizens did in the aftermath of 9/11.
“We’re here today to remember those who died on 9/11…and thank service members (who died in the War on Terror),” he said. “But we’re also looking to God to help us and recognize each other, so we can look into each other’s eyes again and be one people… with love, respect and honor. It’s the only way we’re going to get through this.”
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners to carry out attacks on American landmarks and inflict mass casualties. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center, and American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
The first plane hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m. Sixteen minutes later at 9:02 a.m., the second plane hit the South Tower. The towers burned for 56 minutes and 102 minutes, respectively, but it only took 12 seconds for them to fall.
Altogether, the World Trade Center attack claimed the lives of 2,819 people from 115 nations. Among the dead were 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority officers. Additionally, 184 people died in the Pentagon attack.