Stratford residents gather to remember victims of Sept. 11 attacks

Bob Johnson can remember with clarity what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

Johnson, a past commander of the Stratford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9460, told an audience of more than 120 people about his day 17 years ago, working as a manager at T.J. Maxx in Newtown.

“That morning, like any other bright Tuesday morning, it was a sunshiny, beautiful day full of hopes and promises,” he said. Sometime after 8 a.m., “I got a call from my wife saying that something terrible had happened.”

Johnson’s wife had been tuned to the Today show on NBC and saw a plane crash into one of the Twin Towers at New York’s World Trade Center.

“America and our lives changed forever in just a couple of hours that morning,” he said.

The audience in the main auditorium of the VFW headquarters agreed. Which is why they came out to remember the victims of the attacks and to thank the first responders and military veterans for defending the country.

Mayor Laura Hoydick, the event’s main speaker, said the Sept. 11 of 17 years ago was similar to this Tuesday, except many never made it back to their homes.

“For mothers, fathers, sons and daughters said goodbye to one another in their daily morning work week rituals, never knowing it would be the last time they would see each other,” she said, calling the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa., “a coordinated act of evil and hate aimed at the brightest beacon of freedom and hope that the world has ever known.”

First District Town Councilman Christopher Pia remembered being a freshman at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull when students heard about the attacks on the school intercom.

“I’ll never forget it,” Pia said. “Sadly enough, it still does feel as if it happened the other day. A lot of good friends of mine had colleagues and parents of theirs who did pass.”

Hoydick said it was important for Stratford to pause and remember the more than 2,900 victims and their families and to thank the first responders and military personnel fighting terrorism here and abroad. Tuesday’s ceremony included civilians rising from their seats to shake the hands of military veterans and local police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

Hoydick said Americans owe it to the victims and their families “to be the best American citizens we can be.”

Pia said Tuesday’s event was “beautiful” and “vital” to continue.

The VFW event has become the town’s official Sept. 11 ceremony and Johnson says it’s as important as ever to remember the victims and those who continue to fight for freedom.

The victims “were people just like you and I. They got up that morning, we thought, we’re going off to work, we’re going off for our day, we’re going on vacation on a plane and then all of a sudden, it just fell apart,” Johnson said.

Residents shook hands with first responders during the Sept. 11 memorial service to say thank you.

Residents and town officials wave flags near the end of the Sept. 11 memorial service. The memorial came 17 years after the terrorist attacks that rocked the United Stated. — Melvin Mason photo

Stratford police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel bow their heads for a moment of silence during Tuesday's Sept. 11 memorial service at the Stratford VFW Post 9460. — Melvin Mason photo

Stratford police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel bow their heads for a moment of silence during Tuesday’s Sept. 11 memorial service at the Stratford VFW Post 9460. — Melvin Mason photo

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Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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