PORTLAND – Bob Ewing wasn’t going to visit his daughter in Portland.

Not on this weekend, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Not for a man who was part of the rescue and recovery effort for 12 days after the destruction of the twin towers, a volunteer firefighter trained by responders who lost their lives that awful day a decade ago.

Ewing wanted to be with his peers in New York.

“Then I went online to see what was happening up here,” he said.

He learned of the city’s planned Memorial March up Congress Street, answered the call for participation, and said he’d be honored to march alongside a group of firefighters Sunday morning.

“I think this was fantastic,” Ewing said after the procession, which began near the Portland Museum of Art and ended at Fort Allen Park with a few brief speeches, a symbolic laying of three wreaths at the base of the 9/11 Monument and a haunting last call of four sets of five bells.

“I think the name placards were incredible,” Ewing said. Along with firefighters in full gear and police officers in uniform were members of the public, hundreds of them, most wearing white and carrying individual 11-by-17-inch placards bearing the name of one of the 343 firefighters and 60 police officers who died in the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001.

Ewing saw names of people he knew well. A man held a placard with the name of Andy Fredericks. A child held Dennis Mojica. Another child held Raymond Meisenheimer. They were some of the men who trained Ewing, who lives outside Albany, N.Y.

“I told them, ‘I want to thank you for having their name today, because I knew this person and he was a good person,’ ” Ewing said.

The procession began promptly at 8:46 a.m. following a long blast from the horn of Engine 4 from Bramhall Station, echoing the time the first hijacked plane struck the north tower. Led by the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band and a half-dozen police cruisers with blue lights flashing, the marchers advanced up Congress Street under the silent, respectful gaze of spectators, many of them holding recording devices.

“I heard people sniffling, (saw) some tears,” said Michelle Le-biedz of Portland. “Even myself, I couldn’t hold it back at times. I tried really hard, but I had to break out my tissue.”

Lebiedz, 46, grew up in South Carolina, where her father was a police officer. She carried a placard with the name of Michael Fiore. If 403 people didn’t show up Sunday morning, she was prepared to carry two names. It quickly became apparent, as white shirts flooded Free Street, she need not have worried.

“I was very impressed with the turnout,” she said, “and with the friendliness of people.”

After the horn, kilted bagpipers and drummers spurred on the marchers. Three color guards led more than a dozen police officers who were followed by civilians carrying the names of fallen officers. Then came more than a hundred firefighters, most from Portland, but others from nearby communities. They wore helmets and bulky black and yellow coats with names stenciled on the back. More civilians followed, bearing the names of fallen firefighters.

Upon reaching the Eastern Promenade, the procession turned right, eventually filing beneath an arch formed by extension ladders from two fire engines, an American flag draped high overhead. With a cloudless sky and the sparkling waters of Casco Bay as a backdrop, Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne led a brief but poignant ceremony that included short speeches by Mayor Nicholas Mavodones, Capt. Ted Ross of the Portland Police Department, patrolman Eric Nevins and Lt. John Brooks, a firefighter.

In speeches lasting no more than five minutes, Mavodones read the names of civilian Mainers who died in the attacks. Ross recalled the fateful events at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., as well as in New York City. Nevins remembered victims’ family members and their struggle to rebuild lives torn asunder. And Brooks asked the marchers to hold aloft their placards.

“Those names on those cards, that’s a life,” Brooks said. “Bring them home with you. Find out something about that person you carried today. Learn about their life, their family, their history. Share that with other people, because those are the true heroes.”

As Ross spoke, an incoming plane roared toward the crowd before banking left to follow the harbor toward the Portland International Jetport, an eerie reminder for all.

“That part was kind of emotional,” said Lebiedz, who thought of “what it must have been like for New Yorkers when they heard those planes flying over.”

Hannah Ewing was 13 when her father’s rescue and recovery team was called to duty in New York. Her brother was 10. On Sunday morning, seeing her father in his dress uniform on Free Street, she hugged him and cried.

She remembers his leaving abruptly, and is forever grateful that he returned. She knows so many others did not.

Bob Ewing, now 59, and his wife and daughter lingered after the ceremony at Fort Allen Park, enjoying the sunshine and the serenity.

“I absolutely applaud whoever put this together,” he said. “I can’t imagine any community doing something that was more touching.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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