Ridgefield 9/11 ceremony: ‘Nothing can be taken for granted’

Remembering again, Ridgefielders shared prayers, listened to voices raised in harmony, heard thoughtful words and laid flowers before the town’s 9/11 memorial — that twisted beam of rusted steel from the World Trade Center that rises like a 15-foot spike into the sky over a field off Route 35.

“Eighteen years, a generation has come — we are in a place where remembering is something different,” said the Rev. Bill Pfohl, of Jesse Lee Methodist Church. “... There is a significant difference between ‘never forgetting’ and remembering.”

The ceremony began with piper Tom Elliott leading in the Ridgefield Police Honor Guard and Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department Color Guard.

Then two young women who won the Ms. President US Ridgefield contest spoke.

“I was born in 2007 — six years after the attack,” on the World Trade Center,” said Kyela McGuire.

But she’d long heard and learned much about it.

“I know I will never know what it was like that day,” she said. “But I know this: On 9/11 we saw the worst in humanity, and in the first responders we also saw the best.”

She added, “9/11 also reminds me nothing can be taken for granted.”

Juliette Arencibia said she too had learned about 9/11 through listening to people who’d lived through it — including her grandfather.

One lesson was that when troubles come, Americans pull together.

“We must come together as a nation regardless of race, religion, or political beliefs,” she said.

“Never forget the heroes who have fought and fallen.”

Evelyn Carr sang ‘God Bless America’.

In brief remarks First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he’d meet a student — too young to remember the events 18 years ago, before he was born — and asked him if knew what the day is about.

“He said, ‘No, not really, I hear it talked about,’” Marconi said.

The first selectman recalled the two Ridgefielders lost — Tyler Ugolyn “pretty fresh” out of college and working in the World Trade Center, and Joseph Heller, who worked in the twin towers, lived in Ridgefield and “left behind a young family.”

He asked people to honor “each and every person lost that day,” their friends and family, and also the survivors.

“Every person working there that day who survived went through a lot,” Marconi said,

The Rev. Karen Halac of the First Congregational Church gave the invocation.

“These past 18 years have shown we cannot do it without you, God,” she said

She asked God to “lift us out of the senseless valleys of retaliation and recrimination and set our feet on the high ground of peace.”

The Ridgefield Chorale sang ‘Blades of Grass on Pure White Stones.’

“Peace be with you,” said Rev. Pfohl, starting the evening’s reflection with a greeting often used in Sunday services.

“This day, it’s hard for us to reflect on what it means to offer peace,” he said. “...Peace is a choice, both to receive and share.”

Rev. Pfohl said he’d visited the 9/11 memorial tower in New York City.

“It’s beautiful — 1,776 feet tall, shimmering pools below — and serves as a witness to what folks who’ve been hurt can come back to create,” he said.

Standing before the rusting steel beam monument given to Ridgefield — as similar relics of the tragedy were given to other New York area communities that had suffered — Rev. Pfohl said: “This memorial, which is not pretty, is a reminder … When we remember 9/11, we don’t simply acknowledge there were people who acted in a senseless way and took countless lives. We acknowledge we have choices today.”

Choices that lead to the loss of life are “not limited to Islamic fundamentalists,” Rev. Pfohl said. “White Christians can act the same way.”

Those who remain and remember have challenge, he said.

“Our challenge is to listen more to each other, and encourage that compassion that is the way to build community,” Rev. Pfohl said.

“...Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, it’s something that must be chosen, built.”

He said people should honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001, and “commit ourselves to make our world be a better place — better than what we saw on that day.”

He added, “Abraham Lincoln asked us to remember ‘the better angels of our natures.’ This will not be easy — there are poisons that flow in our midst — but we can choose to offer peace day by day.”

At First Selectman Marconi’s invitation, people formed two lines to pick up white roses and lay them at the base of the monument, with Fire Chief Jerry Myers and Police Chief Jeff Kreitz leading, going first in the now traditional act of remembrance. Many bent down on a knee to offer a flower. Some lowered their heads in prayer or thought. A few reached out to lay a hand on the steel beam — as if absorbing some wordless message, or touching the shoulder of friend in parting. Old men in veterans hats saluted. The lines were long — one witness counted more than 300 at the event, and most who came waited in line to take their turn and lay a flower in tribute.

The chorale sang all the time that people waited, and put flowers on the monument.

The piper played ‘Amazing Grace.’

The Rev. Charles Bonadies of the Ridgefield Baptist Church gave a closing benediction.

“Where is God when tragedy strikes?” he said, adding that it’s a question many people ask.

“God’s presence in times of troubles is seen through people and communities like ours,” he said.

“God, we look to you to grant us concern, compassion ...All glory belongs to you. Amen.”

At Marconi’s request people who had risen for the benediction remained standing as the police honor guard and firefighters’ color guard marched out.

“Thank you so much for being here,” Marconi said. “Appreciate it.”