Retired National Guard Gen. Francis Vavala was the guest speaker at the program at Citizens' Hose Company in Smyrna remembering those who died in the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001 and honoring military personnel and first responders. See a video and photos from the ceremony with this story.
Patriotic songs, stirring speeches, prayers and times of solemn reflection were all parts of Smyrna-Clayton’s 17th annual 9/11 Memorial Service Tuesday evening at Citizens’ Hose Company in Smyrna.
Co-sponsored by the Smyrna-Clayton Ministerium and Citizens’ Hose Company, the event was a time to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks on the United States Sept. 11, 2001 along with a tribute to military personnel and first responders including police, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and ambulance personnel.
The Rev. Dr. John Riley, an Air Force veteran, served as the master of ceremonies for the program.
Smyrna Mayor John Embert introduced the honored guests.
Citizens' Hose Company Past President Chris Hudson introduced the keynote speaker, retired Delaware National Guard Gen. Francis Vavala.
Vavala said he was honored to be participating in the 9/11 memorial service on Patriots Day "in the most patriotic town in Delaware."
"Look at this turnout," said Vavala, as he recognized the residents in attendance.
Then he turned to all the emergency services personnel lined up around the perimeter of the firehouse.
"I am humbled to be in the presence of our first responders tonight," he said.
Vavala recognized the color guard from First State Military Academy who presented the colors at the start of the ceremony.
"When I see young people like that, it restores my faith in the next generation," he said.
He also complimented the Citizens' Hose Company Band for performing patriotic songs for the service, including "God Bless America" with Rosemary Hadland leading the singing.
"You have inspired us all today," Vavala said.
Opening his speech, Vavala recalled the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he said the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941 would be a day that would live in infamy.
"I submit to you that Sept. 11, 2001 will live in infamy in the hearts and minds of Americans," Vavala said.
He spoke about the nearly 3,000 Americans killed in the terrorist attacks and about the brave passengers on Flight 93 who confronted the terrorists and were able to divert their plane from crashing into the Capitol, but died when the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
He paid tribute to all the first responders "who ran to the sound of disaster to save lives."
"There's no denying America has changed. We're a different nation than we were before Sept. 11," Vavala said.
He detailed the wars America has fought and is still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the nearly 7,000 troops who "paid the ultimate price and thousands more who have returned home bearing the physical and mental scars of battle."
Along with fighting terrorists overseas, Vavala talked about all the security precautions that have been put in place in the United States to help prevent terrorist attacks, such as the increased security at airports and events, the increased use of security cameras and encouraging citizens to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.
While there have been many changes, Vavala said terrorists haven't been able to change what's truly important.
"They were hoping to weaken America and dampen her spirit," he said. "Instead after 9/11, Americans united and proved not only that we would not be defeated, but that we would emerge stronger than ever -- and we need to maintain that spirit and that strength."
"We bonded together under this flag," Vavala said.
As Americans reflect on the changes, on the heroes and the victims, he said we need to commit ourselves "to our country, our communities and our family. That's the best way to honor and remember those who were lost due to Sept. 11."
He closed with "God bless America" and the words of Todd Beamer, one of the passengers on Flight 93, "Let's roll."
Residents and guests attending the ceremony gave Vavala a standing ovation.
Next, a candlelight vigil was held, with the tolling of the firefighters’ 5-5-5 bell and the playing of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes by Pipe Major Russell Johnstone and Bruce Johnstone.
St. Polycarp Church Deacon Charlie Robinson, a retired New York City firefighter, recited the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Firefighters collected donations for the Smyrna-Clayton Ministerium for programs in the community which provide food and emergency assistance to people in need.
Mission BBQ in Dover was recognized for providing sandwiches for all the first responders attending the ceremony.