Aurora -- Sept. 11, 2001, started out like any other day, but it ended like no other.
That was the theme of Mayor James Fisher, who was the keynote speaker at American Legion Post 803's annual 9/11 commemoration last week at Sunny Lake Park.
About 50 people gathered at the southern end of Sunny Lake near the city's Memorial Tree Garden to celebrate what has become known as Patriot Day and witness a flag retirement ceremony, which consisted of old flags being burned according to recognized standards for such disposal.
"That day started out for me and many Americans like any other day," Fisher said. "But now we know that day was not like any other; it changed our country forever, it changed our way of life forever, and it's our responsibility as Americans to never forget."
Fisher told about his schedule on that faithful day when he was working in an office near New York City.
"It started early, just like my day today did, and I was in my office conducting a meeting," he explained. "My wife Mary Jo called and told me to turn on my TV. By that time the first tower had been struck. Until that call, it was a day like any other for me and many Americans."
Fisher said 9/11 "can best be described as catastrophic, disastrous, terrible, devastating, unbelievable, or a bad dream. Unfortunately it was not a bad dream, it was real.
"What's important today and going forward is to understand why we assemble every year on this date. We gather to honor. We gather to memorialize. And we gather to remember."
Fisher noted the thousands of formal and informal events that take place throughout the United States provide the opportunity for those who remember to inform those generations who don't what happened on that day. "That day that started out for many Americans like any other," he added.
Fisher pointed out that about 25 percent of the population -- those 17 years and younger -- for the part don't remember Sept. 11, 2001, with school-age children and preschool children representing that group.
"WHEN YOU think of the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania, you must remember the 2,977 good people who lost their lives; the 2,977 good people who possibly thought that Sept. 11, 2001 would be just another day," Fisher said.
He cited the tragic figures:
• The north tower was struck at 8:46 a.m. and the south tower at 9:30 a.m., and 2,753 innocent people lost their lives.
• The Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m., and 184 innocent people lost their lives.
• United 93 went down in Shanksville, Pa. at 10:03 a.m., and 40 innocent people lost their lives and prevented an attack on the White House or Capitol.
"There are many monuments throughout the U.S. that remind us of that tragic day," said Fisher. "They remind us of the innocent and courageous people who lost their lives. And those monuments remind us of the courageous heroes that saved lives on that day that started out for many Americans like any other."
Others participating in the ceremony were Post 803 Commander Steve Spencer, Ladies Auxiliary Chaplain Shirley Duval and Legion 14th District Chaplain Larry Sharp, plus a handful of Legionnaires who helped to burn the flags.
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited and a recorded version of the national anthem was played. Spencer noted nearly 100 worn out flags were burned.
"These flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the dead soldiers, sailors and airmen of all of our nation's wars," said Sergeant-at-Arms Art Katrine.
"Since these flags have become faded and worn in a tribute of service and loves, I recommend that they be fittingly destroyed," added First Vice Commander Earl Count.
"Comrades, we have presented here these flags of our country which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable," said Spencer. "They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love."
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