With solemn ceremony, Ridgefield honors the fallen of 9/11

The losses of Sept. 1, 2001 — office workers and airplane passengers and first responders — were remembered as Ridgefielders gathered Friday evening before the rusting steel beam from the World Trade Center, the town’s 9/11 monument, to share words and music and prayers.

“We’re here this evening to remember and honor those who were lost, those who responded, and those who carry on,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

There were 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attacks that day. Marconi spoke the names of seven.

“Tyler Ugolyn, Joseph Heller, Christopher Blackwell, Bud and Dee Flagg, Barbara Edwards, Robert Higley,” he said. “All people connected to Ridgefield and connected to all of us.”

Others — friends, relatives, colleagues — were lost that day and might be mourned by some among 100 or so people in the Recreation Center field. Marconi apoligized that he couldn’t name them all.

“Please understand,” he said, “our hearts, our condolences … are with you tonight.”

The ceremony began with bagpiper Tom Elliott leading in a colorguard of Ridgefield firefighters and an honor guard of Ridgefield police officers.

Evelyn Carr sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Dr. Fred Turpin of the United Church of Christ gave the invocation.

“It’s not just pain that comes, but an opportunity for healing,” he said.

There was no need to ask God to attend the evening’s ceremonies, he suggested.

“Called or uncalled, God is always among us, and within us,” he said.

Eva Trachtenberg, Ms. President US Ridgefield 2020, spoke of people lost that day — including the first responders who rushed in to save people from the damaged towers before they fell, taking the lives of so many would-be rescuers — and the passengers who’d battled terrorists on a plane headed for the Washington D.C. and managed to crash it into a field in Pennsylvania, giving up their lives to save others.

“Generosity, courage, kindness and selflessness are the calling cards of these heroes,” she said.

“We will keep in our hearts all the people who died...”

Evelyn Carr sang again, this time “God Bless America” — joined, at Marconi’s invitation, by the voices of some in the audience.

Wave of sadness

The Rev. Whitney Altopp of St. Stephen’s Church offered reflections on the day burned into so many people’s memories.

She began by recalling what a beautiful day it had been, before the tragedy struck.

“The bluest sky I could ever remember,” she said.

She was living in New York City then.

“I remember the wave of grief and sadness that seemed to come up through the air,” she said, “through Connecticut, through New York, carrying the loss.”

She recalled “the pictures on TV of the first responders who ran into the place of destruction, carrying out everyone they could…

“We are honored by their commitment both to our community and to our common humanity.”

People, she believes, want to do good.

“We, too, want to make someone’s life better in a time of need,” she said.

“For me, I remember showing up to give blood and seeing a long line of people who were needed, because no one was going to the hospital” — people had either escaped or had been killed.

She recalled the unity and togetherness of the nation following the tragedy of 9/11, with people newly committed to helping others.

She said that amid 2020’s challenges — the pandemic, racial tensions, protests — people may wonder if the nation today could be that unified.

“Can we ever help each other as we did then?” she asked.

“I believe we are still capable of coming together in time of need.”

Americans should be able to pull together because they are united by “core values,” she said.

“I pray we will show our honor and respect by living the core values that we share as Americans — amen, amen,” Rev. Altopp concluded.

Peace poem

Ridgefield’s poet laureate Barb Jennes read two poems.

First was “Wage Peace” by Judyth Hill.

“Wage peace with your breath,” it began.

“Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings and flocks of redwinged blackbirds.

“Breathe in terrorists

“And breather out sleeping children and freshly mowed fields...”

The second poem was blessing the boats by Lucille Clifton. Among the lines were:

“...may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

Certain that it will

Love you back…”

First Selectman Marconi invited people to lay white roses before the 9/11 monument, while piper Tom Elliott played “”Amazing Grace.”

Maria-pia Seirup of PeaceWork gave the benediction, quoting Saint Francis.

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace.”