Topsham Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky speaks during the 9/11 Memorial Service Saturday morning. Payal Gangishetti / The Times Record

A memorial ceremony was held at Topsham Town Hall Saturday to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“20 years ago today, a morning very similar to the sunny and clear day we have today, Americans watched in horror as the terrorist attacks left 2,977 people dead,” said Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky.

The commemoration began at 8:30 a.m. with a prayer, followed by a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., marking when the first jetliner hijacked by terrorists was flown into the World Trade Center in New York City.

20 years ago, two planes were flown into Manhattan’s World Trade Center towers, which fell later that morning. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back against the hijackers.

Scrapchansky, a Navy pilot stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, at the time of the attacks, said his memories of 9/11 are forever etched in his mind.

He was attending an intelligence conference at the Naval Air Station in Brunswick when he and his friends learned about the incident, said Scrapchansky.

“Around 8:45 a.m., we were in the break room, and what we saw on the television appeared to be a small aircraft that had struck the World Trade Center,” said Scrapchansky. “We were shocked. While we were still processing what had happened, the second plane hit the South Tower, and only after that we realized those were commercial planes.”

Two days after the attack, when they Scrapchansky and his colleagues were flying back to Florida, Scrapchansky said they were the only ones flying down the eastern seaboard.

“We were advised to stay 10 nautical miles away from New York City. I’ll never forget one radio call, asking permission to deviate from a thunderstorm, and the air traffic control said there is no traffic. Go anywhere you want,” said Scrapchansky said.

As they passed the eastern side of Manhattan, Scrapchansky said the flight crew stared out the windows at a plume of smoke that seemed to rise never-ending to the sky.

Topsham Police Department Chief Marc Hagan said it is important to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the resiliency of the nation in the wake of the attacks.

Attendees had the opportunity to stake 2,977 American flags in the ground representing the lives lost.

The ceremony included the reading of the names of each person who died.

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