Ceremony honors 9/11 victims

Hundreds of people gathered in Annapolis, Md., Monday morning.

BY HEATHER MOYER | ANNAPOLIS, Md. | September 11, 2006

Hundreds of people gathered in Annapolis, Md., Monday morning to take part in a walk and ceremony to honor those lost on Sept. 11.

The attendees came despite the rainy weather, many donning American flag pins and official "Annapolis Freedom Walk" t-shirts handed out by volunteers. After singing the "Star Spangled Banner," the crowd followed a color guard and Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich on a walk through part of Annapolis.

As attendees walked, many shared stories of where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, many noting that it was a day of shock that still affects them now. Mel Luterman said his emotions run high on the anniversary.

"I think of all those people killed, of all those people who lost friends and family," said Luterman, community program coordinator for the Governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism. "I don't understand why people can be so cruel. It's a terrible and horrible thing. It really gets to your heart."

Luterman, a former rabbi, said his time spent working with volunteers around the state at least reminds him that some can be good - yet he can't help thinking about where the world has gone wrong.

"People don't seem to care enough for each other anymore, we need more of that."

Jim Merna walked because he wants to continue supporting the United States. A Korean War veteran, he carried a U.S. Marine Corps flag and frequently showed his fellow walkers a photo of his son.

"He's a Lieutenant Colonel and he commands the same unit I was in back in Korea," said Merna, smiling proudly with the photo in his hand.

Almost all of Merna's family is serving or has served in the military at some point in their lives. Thinking of the losses suffered on Sept. 11 and of the sacrifices those in the military make has Merna wanting to support the U.S. even more.

"We must not forget what happened that day. We need to show our support."

Speakers during the remembrance ceremony spoke of the same. Standing in the shadow of the Maryland Fallen Firefighters Memorial and two large U.S. and Maryland flags draped from fire truck ladders, the speakers touched on various memories from that day.

"We must never forget those we lost," said Tom Stanton, Chief of the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department. Stanton worked at the Pentagon on rescue and recovery hours after one of the planes crashed there.

"It was the most horrific event I've ever experienced," he said. "We must never forget those we lost, and we must remain vigilant."

Other speakers encouraged gratitude toward those who work in military and public service today, including firefighters and police officers. "On that day, many of the images were of people running away from the buildings," said Dr. Martha Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College.

"But others ran toward those buildings, desperate to serve. We must honor them. On this day we salute them all. They have our deepest gratitude, respect and admiration."

Those who attended the service thought it an excellent tribute, having come to share their time in honor of the day. "It's my little way of saying I think about this all the time," said Lila Robinson, a resident of Annapolis. "This was really nice."

Robinson said her memories of that day were still fresh as well. She was living in Charleston, S.C., at the time, running a small restaurant. "That morning I did what I did every morning, I came in to the restaurant and put on some coffee and the television," she explained.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was a movie. But then the second plane hit, and I must have just stood there for an hour in shock. I didn't do anything for the rest of the day. People came into the restaurant, but just to watch it on TV. We all just gravitated together, nobody wanted to leave - or talk, really. We just sat in silence for a long time."

Robinson's eyes teared when remembering one elderly man who'd come in to learn more. "Some people just needed to cry. Seeing that old man cry really bothered me so much."

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