Firefighters look on at a commemoration ceremony Sept. 11, 2021 at Mechanics Park in Biddeford, 20 years after thousands lost their lives in terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and elsewhere. Ted Sirois photo

BIDDEFORD — On a sunny day reminiscent of the weather the Northeast was experiencing precisely 20 years ago, a commemoration was held Saturday at Mechanics Park in Biddeford. The event commemorated all the lives lost as a result of the September 11 terrorist attack of 2001.

The event opened with somber bagpipe music performed by Old Orchard Beach resident Tom Ryan.

A prayer followed, delivered by Rev. Shelly Snow from Southern Maine Health Care, one of the sponsors of this event.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant welcomed the dozens who attended and gave opening comments. The mayor encouraged those attending to embrace their commonality as a people and work toward a better America. He concluded by hoping that God would allow the tragedy of Sept. 11 to become a catalyst for good.

It’s not only those who died on 9-11 who should be remembered, retired U. S. Air Force Colonel Jennifer Fullmer said, but also the many others who died or are suffering from the health issues caused by the toxic substances they were exposed to during the recovery operation. Throughout the colonel’s speech, she praised the first responders by reiterating the words, “They didn’t think twice, they rushed in. Their selflessness should be our inspiration”.

Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford — an event sponsor — sang while those people who knew someone affected by the tragedy came forward and deposited a flower in a basket in front of the park’s pavilion.

During his closing remarks, retired U. S. Navy Master Chief Gene Foster described his initial shock from the tragedy on 9-11 and the eerie feeling he experienced three days later. Foster recounted the day he walked through a virtually empty Portland International Airport to board a flight to Norfolk, Virginia, on his way to serve aboard the USS George Washington. He said he wished all Americans could have seen the dedication of the young sailors aboard that carrier as they sailed off that day to defend the country.

To honor all first responders who died on 9-11 by running into the burning skyscrapers or dying from the toxic substances they ingested during the recovery, Engine 32 of the Biddeford Fire Department ran its bell 20 times commemorating the 20 years since the tragedy.

The final words came from Rev. Shirley Bowen from Seeds of Hope, another event sponsor. As the bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” the individual flowers deposited in the basket were gathered up and released into the Saco River as a final tribute to those lost as a result of that tragic event that occurred exactly 20 years before.

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