While many people went about their usual routines Monday, there were events happening across the country, including in Genesee County, to acknowledge and memorialize the date of Sept. 11 that has become so sacred to Americans.
And veteran John McCune attended one such ceremony, believing it is something to appreciate.
“There's nothing more important and special than the ceremonies that should take place across the country for each and every school child coming up so that they can remember and absolutely understand the impact that it had on our nation,” McCune said while at the Batavia VA Medical Center flagpole during a 9/11 ceremony. “How we were all, as Americans, were drawn together based on the fact that it was a need, and they followed up with that need for those heroes that lost their lives in those buildings, attempting to save those from the building fires and eventually lost their lives by the buildings toppling down on them.”
McCune was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, having served eight years. He believes that participating in such events is a “must-do” every year, “especially for our younger generation that’s up and coming so that they too will know and have the knowledge of the events that took more than 3,000 lives in New York City.”
The driveway into the VA was lined with people for the ceremony, and the front lawn was adorned with U.S. flags to represent the shape of the Twin Towers.
Lest anyone forget, from 911memorial.org: on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists associated with al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group, hijacked four commercial airplanes scheduled to fly from the East Coast to California.
In a coordinated attack that turned the planes into weapons, the terrorists intentionally flew two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a global business complex in New York City, causing the towers to collapse. They also flew a third plane into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va.
Passengers and crew members on the fourth plane launched a counterattack, forcing the hijacker pilot—who was flying the airplane toward Washington, D.C.—to crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near the town of Shanksville.
The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people. This was the single largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil. The attacks caused the deaths of 441 first responders, the greatest loss of emergency responders on a single day in American history.
McCune commended state Senator George Borrello, who represents the 57th senate district, for also being at the ceremony, and for being “genuine” with his heartfelt remarks.
The Batavia VA federal facility was first on his to-do list for the day, Borrello said.
“It ties everything together — the sacrifices that had been made, literally for centuries by our military, with the attack on our nation, and the sacrifices that were made that day by people who just were going to work and not realizing that they were going to be part of what would be the war on terror,” he said.
So for him, it just seemed like the ideal opportunity to remind everyone of that sacrifice, he said, while at the VA, where veterans who served their country reside and receive services and treatment.
Those veterans, and Sept. 11, truly changed this nation, Borrello said.
“My fear is that our children are understanding that and understanding that the threat is still there, but the diligence is still required. And I have a lot of concerns about how the narrative has been twisted against our law enforcement, first responders and military, that they are no longer the heroes, the ones that are on the watch, guarding us, but they have somehow been, it has been twisted to them being the enemy,” he said. “And that’s what I spoke about today, because I look at someone who might be 25 - 30 years old who may have no memory of 9/11, but is now being told that somehow the police are racist, and this and that, and all these other negative things that are said about law enforcement, when the fact is, that it didn’t matter: race, creed, color, we were united, that the politics stopped at the water’s edge, that we all bleed the same color.
And that is what makes America great, is that diversity and the unity in that diversity.”
As a representative of the City of Batavia, Councilman-at-Large Bob Bialkowski praised the VA Medical Center, staffed by a “superb group of dedicated professionals and caring volunteers.”
The U.S. Army Aviation Reserves veteran turned to that fateful day, when a “vile act of terror was a stain on the heart to all of us.”
“Our country is hated by half of the world because we are free people. Freedom is the enemy of evil. And the evil people of the world will always be plotting against us to enslave us to their will. We are Americans, and history shows that we're the greatest protectors of freedom in the world,” Bialkowski said. “Today, let us remember all those brave and heroic Americans who lost their lives on 9/11, 2001. Service members, police, firefighters, medical and ordinary citizens. All Americans, first and foremost.
“In closing, the entrance to the main entrance going up the stairs, there's a garden, and there's figurines representing each member of each armed force. They’re all standing there saluting. They're looking down at the grass, and I'll picture 3,000 people on the lawn, where each flag is, picture a person standing there,” he said. “So on the way out, please remember this. We will never forget, and must always remain vigilant and fight evil. We are all Americans.”
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Photos by Steve Ognibene