NORWALK, Conn. Bagpipes and the thunder of thousands of motorcycles began Norwalk's observance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on Sunday morning. As the sun dropped low in the sky, bagpipes, a tolling bell and an unveiled piece of the World Trade Center brought the memorializing to a close at a Norwalk church.
The Connecticut United Ride, a 9/11 ceremony at the Oyster Festival and an ecumenical memorial service at St. Paul's on the Green drew local politicians and hundreds of Norwalkers, as well as out-of-towners.
More than 3,000 motorcycles participated in the 10th annual Connecticut United Ride, roaring out of Norden Place at 11:30 a.m. in a procession that took a half-hour to pass onlookers who lined the exit of the parking lot. "We figured it out there was about $7½ million of motorcycles there," said Mayor Richard Moccia.
State Sen. Bob Duff estimated there were about 4,600 riders, including Iraq war veteran Marc Kubovic, who was born and raised in Norwalk and was riding for the fifth time. "To see Americans come together for an event like this, it shows you how much we really care," he said. "When things like this happen, we can put aside our differences."
He was riding with Michelle Anson, whose mother was supposed to be a block from the World Trade Center that day but whose plans changed. It was her second ride. "It's like a big huge parade," Anson said. "People line the streets and they start to cheer. It feels like you're doing something really, really good, for a good cause."
Mike Petrucci of Milford had been in the ride a few times before. He said it fit with his family's community service, including his sons' participation in volunteer fire companies. "How could you forget all the people who passed away?" he said. "I actually get goose bumps on the way out of here, absolutely."
His oldest son, Joe Petrucci, was riding for the first time. "I know that for a lot of firemen, 9/11 hit pretty close to home," he said.
Tammy Biallargeon of Shelton was riding with Fran Rousseau of Wolcott. "You feel like a true American on this ride," said Biallargeon, who has a cousin fighting in Afghanistan. She had a picture on her iPhone of her cousin raising the American flag there Sunday morning.
"We remember what the day is about when we're here," said Rousseau, a retired Connecticut parole officer. "It's about remembering the people who lost their lives on 9/11, being united for strength and dignity and what America is all about, not letting the terrorists win."
Norwalk's leaders reminded hundreds of onlookers of what the day was about during an afternoon ceremony at the Oyster Festival. Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling struggled to keep it together as he read a letter from a 15-year-old girl to her father, a Port Authority police officer who passed away at age 40 while trying to save others at the World Trade Center.
"Dear Daddy," it began. "So much has changed in the last decade. I'm not the little girl you remember. I've grown up a lot."
Rabbi Ron Fish remembered the simple annoyances of Sept. 10, which loomed large before they were put into perspective the next day. "On Monday, Sept. 10, a hose in my sink broke, just as I needed to rush out the door and I thought my life was filled with unfairness," he said. "... On Tuesday, Sept. 11, different things seemed important. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, naiveté was lost. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, somebody tried to take America apart but on Tuesday, Sept 11, America came together."
St. Paul's Church was filled to capacity for the evening ecumenical memorial services, led by diverse area clergy, including the Rev. Paul Bryant-Smith of the First Congregation Church and Bhai Jay Kishan Singh, president of the Norwalk Sikh Community. While they spoke, a piece of World Trade Center steel was uncovered outside.
"The piece of steel that we will uncover today makes a humanitarian statement and the theological statement," said the Rev. Nicholas Lang, rector of St. Paul's, "for it is a tangible reminder that the seeds of hatred and intolerance that are planted firmly and fed by ignorance and fanaticism will blossom into that kind of horrible act of destruction we witnessed 10 years ago today, and that we have witnessed in other lives during the course of our history: The Holocaust, genocide in Armenia and the Sudan, the killings in Columbine and most recently, the slaughter of so many kids in Oslo, Norway."
A bagpiper led the procession from the church to the artifact for a dedication. Moccia quoted a friend's poem, saying, "I won't read it all, but he said that day when the ash fell on everybody and they were covered ... we were all the same color that day, different shades of gray." Duff thanked the church for being there. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes remembered sitting in his office in New York City, watching through his window as the twin towers fell. He wondered where God might be, and found him or her in the New Yorkers who came together to help each other.
"As I look as this twisted piece of steel, it will remind us of the tragedy and the horror, it will remind us of need for vigilance," he said. "But I hope that it will also remind us that in fact we are at our best when we are our brother's keeper."
The bell tolled for each of Connecticut's victims.
Lang said during the service, "The act of remembrance is important not only because we need to honor the lives and memory of all our people but because in the act of remembering we must confront the reality and the functionality that we still live in a culture of anger, hate, dehumanization, rage and indignation that leads to acts of violence."
What did you do on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11?
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