Every American remembers Sept. 11, 2001 differently. Those old enough to recall the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93 11 years ago can pinpoint their location and actions that day. Tuesday night in Roxborough, citizens shared their experiences and how 9/11 forever altered their lives.
Bruce Hoffman, president of the 21st Ward Veterans Association, watched the attacks from the Amtrack monitors and doubted the serverity until the second plane hit the Twin Towers. The Roxborough resident and veteran on Tuesday remembered Sept. 10, 2001 as "the last good day in American history," referencing the War on Terror, economic crisis and fear of retribution that followed 9/11.
On Sept. 13, 2001, Friends of Gorgas Park President John Boyce grappled with how to proceed with an already scheduled park concert featuring The Hooligans band. Instead of cancelling, Boyce and Hoffman continued on with life and added a candlelit vigil.
"Gorgas Park never held a larger crowd than that night. People spilled down past the steps and onto Hermitage Street," Hoffman said, with Boyce estimating 1,000 Americans in attendance.
Since then, the 21st Ward Veterans Association annually holds a vigil every Sept. 11. Police, fire, emergency and military officials attend and are honored by the crowds.
In 2001, Spc. Sarah Bianco, age 11, felt deeply the shock waves from 9/11. With her mother in the Air Force, the Roxborough resident vowed to help and enter the military when able.
After graduating high school, she entered the military and now serves in 369 Engineer Detachment based in Horsham. In her speech Tuesday, she thanked her fellow citizens and noted how much she appreciates the sentiments given to military men and women.
"It means the world to me to have all of this support," she said.
Hoffman praised emergency workers Tuesday and remembered the 412 uniformed workers who died following 9/11. Philadelphia Fire Deputy Chief Joseph G. Mack aided in the New York City rescue effort in 2001 and said Tuesday the vigil was important.
"To me, this ceremony and support are awe-inspiring. I hope this continues every year," he said.
About 75 residents gathered at the War Memorial at sunset Tuesday and listened to speeches. Pastors from the Church of St. Albans, Church of the Living Saviour and Andorra Baptist Church offered prayers.
The veterans plan on continuing the remembrance as long as possible.
"It's a solemn day for us, but it's one we feel needs to be commemorated," Hoffman said.