SOUTH PORTLAND — Patricia Foster of Eliot wiped tears from her eyes as the strains of a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” faded.

Tuesday’s observance at Southern Maine Community College had taken her back to Sept. 11, 2001, when she was a student at Suffolk County Community College on New York’s Long Island.

On just such a crystal-blue-skies morning, she walked into the student center on her way to class and saw people clustered around a television. She stopped and saw the second airplane hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.

“The first person I called was my mom,” she said. Her mother could empathize with the disorienting sense of loss. “She told me she was going to class at the same college when (President) Kennedy was shot,” Foster said.

Close to 100 people gathered at SMMC’s campus center flagpole to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a defining event for a generation.

Students, faculty and staff members listened as Michael Lundin, a nursing student and a member of the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps, played bagpipes.

College security officers lowered the flag to half-staff at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first hijacked jetliner hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, and the gathering observed a moment of silence.

College President Ron Cantor then told the gathering that such memorial services remind people of the importance of promoting peace across cultures.

He said the observances also are important to help inform the growing number of people who were too young to appreciate the significance of the Sept. 11 attacks when they happened.

Many of the students in elementary schools that observed a moment of silence Tuesday had not been born by Sept. 11, 2001, and even 18-year-olds were just 7 at the time.

A statement issued by Gov. Paul LePage called for flags to be flown at half-staff during the day, in accordance with a presidential proclamation.

“The terrorists who hijacked our skies, attempted to attack the White House, and flew planes into both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were on a mission to weaken our resolve and instill fear in our hearts,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “America’s courage was tested that day, but we answered the call.

“I encourage all Mainers to take a moment out of their day today to reflect and mourn those we lost to this act of hatred and violence,” said LePage, who is leading a trade mission in China.

Cantor’s words about coming together across cultures and generations resonated for Foster, who is studying dietary technology. The shared observance of the anniversary “makes me feel more connected to everyone on the planet,” she said.

“It drives home, for me, the point that we are really the same people,” she said. “We all grieve and we all love.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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