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September 12, 2011

Belleville marks 9/11 anniversary with an emotional ceremony

BND Frontpage
The Rev. Darrell Coons, the Belleville Fire Department chaplain, urged more than 200 people who gathered Sunday for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 to do something for firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians they encounter.
"Thank them. Just shake their hand," Coons said. "Folks, they love you."
A moment later the front lawn in front of the fire department administration building, 1125 S. Illinois St., became the loudest place in town. All at once the sirens and lights were activated on a small fleet of firetrucks, police cars and ambulances parked behind Coons.
A few seconds after the din died down, the "Belleville Moment of Remembrance Ceremony" closed out in subdued fashion, when a trumpeter played a mournful rendition of "Taps."
For Belleville firefighter Raymond Winchester, the emotions summoned by Sunday's 9/11 tribute were almost too much.
"I've got a brand new family and it just makes me very thankful," said Winchester, who showed up for Sunday's event with his wife Diana and daughters Avery and Eden, the latter just five days old.
Earlier in the day the family had watched live coverage of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 at the memorial in New York City, Diana Winchester said.
"We had breakfast with pancakes and tears this morning," she said. "I was crying the whole time."
Sunday's memorial began with Mark Eckert, the Belleville mayor, reading a resolution passed by the Belleville City Council.
Mirroring a resolution that Congress had also passed, it recounted the events of 9/11 and asked all Americans at noon Sunday to spend a moment in silence reflecting on the lives of those lost that day.
Eckert recalled seeing the terrorist attacks unfold on television.
"I will never forget myself that day in September 2001," he said.
Mary McHugh said the value of 9/11 memorial services like the one Sunday was that they give her a sense of rejuvenation.
They inspired her to try "to live a better life every day," while causing her to "appreciate what's being done for us and to appreciate our country," said McHugh, a Belleville Township trustee.
Since 9/11, "We've seen a rise in solidarity among Americans," said Anita Steinmann, McHugh's daughter.
Steinmann, of Edwardsville, attended Sunday's events with her daughters Marian, 8, and Josie, 5.
When she tries to explain the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York and Washington, D.C., Steinmann said she tells her daughters "that not everybody in the world sees everything the way we do, and although we believe America is a great place to be, that not everybody sees it that way ..."
Brad Penet, a 2009 Belleville West High School graduate, played the trumpet for Sunday's event, an experience that "has a lot of meaning for me, my dad being a firefighter and being in the honor guard."
J.P. Penet, Brad Penet's father, is a battalion chief for the Belleville Fire Department.
The heroism and sacrifice shown on 9/11 -- 343 New York Fire Department members died in the line of duty that day -- "brings home the gravity of the job that I do," J.P. Penet said. "It fortifies my resolve to do the best job I can."
The senior Penet glanced at the 35-foot-long steel girder strapped to a trailer in the engine house adjacent to the fire department offices.
The girder was recovered from the World Trade Center and will likely become the centerpiece for the Sept. 11th Memorial Walkway of Southern Illinois.
Sunday's event tied in with efforts to build the walkway, he said.
"I mean that's really why we're here -- to help everyone in this city remember where they were and what it means to be unified," he said. "At that point we were all singular in purpose on that day."