Local responders honored at statewide ceremonies on Patriot Day

Posted Sept. 11, 2009, at 7:17 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Even though eight years have passed, most people remember exactly where they were when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Bangor Fire Chief Jeff Cammack was at the Bangor Auditorium overseeing testing for new firefighters.

Col. John L. D’Errico, commander of Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing, was in the middle of the air-refueling wing’s morning briefing.

Bangor Mayor Gerry Palmer was in a Penobscot County commissioners meeting at the county courthouse.

“You always remember it,” Cammack said, just before a University College of Bangor event held Friday to honor heroes of 9-11 and today. “You always remember where you were. It’s tragic. Very, very tragic.”

For Palmer, “Sept. 11 was always my mother’s birthday. That day has changed. It’s still so painful and so fresh in my mind.”

The UCB event was one of many held statewide. Gov. John Baldacci attended two of those, one in Augusta and one at a park in Bangor, held just after the UCB event.

Memories are still intense of that clear September day eight years ago when terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York. A third was flown toward Washington, D.C., where it crashed into the Pentagon, while the fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control. Approximately 3,000 people died that day, including two New York City paramedics and 341 firefighters.

“We are here today to say we’ll never forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Alice Ireland, UCB’s student government president.

UCB and the college’s student government association were hosts for the local 9-11 event, which included honoring local emergency responders.

“Today is all about thanking you,” UCB Dean Gillian Jordan said to the crowd of uniformed attendees.

Bangor Fire Department personnel, Bangor Police Department officers, Maine State Police troopers, deputies from Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, soldiers from the Maine Air National Guard and local ambulance crews were on hand and were given a free barbecue lunch after the short program.

A moment of silence was observed, a wreath was laid at the base of the college’s tall flagpole, its huge U.S. flag flying at half-staff in honor of those who died on that fateful day, and then University of Maine student Casie Poplaski sang a moving rendition of the national anthem.

Firefighters from all over Maine volunteered to go to New York after the twin towers fell, but the National Association of Firefighters sent out a message that put them into a holding pattern because of the influx of volunteers.

“My guys all volunteered to rush down there,” Cammack said, adding it was very hard telling his men that they could not go.

D’Errico and five KC 135 air-refueling planes were airborne or just taking off from Bangor International Airport when the second of the twin towers fell, he said. D’Errico, who was vice wing commander at the time, was on the third plane sent to refuel fighter jets that were providing security in New York.

“It was a beautiful, crystal-clear day, as everybody knows,” he said recalling the national tragedy. As his plane started to descend toward the Big Apple, “we could see smoke, and we were still in Maine.”

Remembrance ceremonies were held all over Maine to pay tribute to Sept. 11, which has been designated as “Patriot Day,” and Baldacci announced that this year, the anniversary is being tied to a United We Serve project put forth by President Barrack Obama.

Obama has issued a call to service and asked residents all over the county to give back to their communities.

“This is a national day of service,” Baldacci said, standing in a park near the Park Wood Transitional Housing on Union Street, surrounded by volunteers.

The group included police and fire personnel, local volunteers — some from the city and some from Lowe’s, the Maine Commission for Community Service and Maine AmeriCorps members and National Civilian Community Corps members, who cleaned and restored the park, planted flowers and built picnic tables.

“People do make a difference,” Baldacci said to those gathered.

“I hope this inspires you to continue to volunteer the rest of the year,” said Shawn Yardley, the Bangor Health and Community Services director.

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