PARKVILLE — In an emotional tribute on Putty Hill Avenue to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the U.S. service members who died in the post-9/11 wars, Gold Star Families read the names of those who lost their lives, including their own family members. Each name was read aloud to a crowd holding lit candles and in harmony with the sound of a tolling bell that was part of the Hope and Peace Foundation’s 9/11 Rolling Memorial.
“It has been said that a person dies twice – once when they actually die and again when they are forgotten,” foundation director Chuck Ritz said at the vigil. “But tonight, we are going to speak those names, so they are never forgotten.”
Ritz added that most Americans don’t know what war is like, and the Gold Star Families are there to speak to the lives lost and the sacrifices of war. In regards to the 9/11 attacks, the death toll continues to rise, particularly with first responders and workers who sifted through the rubble of the World Trade Center towers in search of victims and now die from illness tied to it.
“We remember those who were lost that morning and those who continue to die today,” Ritz said.
Ritz recognized not only 9/11 victims but also the soldiers killed in the “War on Terror,” as well as the 22 veterans a day who die by suicide every day, which were represented with 22 pairs of boots near the stage.
“The military has a motto, ‘No man left behind,’ but for some reason, when they get home, we don’t stand by that,” he said.
Memories tend to fade, he said, and he has made an effort for the past several years to keep the promise that America made to ‘never forget’ 9/11, partly by holding vigils every year. He also helps to create the “Path of Honor” on Putty Hill Avenue with 2,977 American flags placed to remember the 9/11 victims, and he helps organize the “Patriot Day Ride,” in which hundreds of motorcyclists ride a route south on Route 1 ending on Putty Hill Avenue every year to remember the victims.
Ritz said that his hope with these events is to convey a message of hope and unity.
“This is about educating and teaching others about the American spirit and what our country was founded and based on,” he said.
After the reading of the names, bagpipe players performed “Amazing Grace,” followed by a trumpet player performing “Taps.” The Honor Guard then retired the Colors.
Overhead, two spotlights recreated the twin towers that reached up into the night sky.