MARICOPA — Still 20 years later, there are moments of silence, somber memories of heroes lost, bagpipes playing, bells tolling, heavy hearts, remembering the sacrifices, never forgetting 9/11.
This Sept. 11 marked 20 years from the day that changed history forever.
In the city of Maricopa, veterans were remembered for their sacrifice to this country with various events, such as the Veterans Honor Walk and a service at the Maricopa Fire Department administration office.
Many veterans gathered at the end of the overpass on John Wayne Parkway nearest Honeycutt Coffee and proceeded to walk to the other side for the Veterans Honor Walk ceremony.
Some dressed in military uniform, others wore shirts showing their military pride. A couple people walked holding flags. Police officers followed the sidewalk procession to and from both sides of the bridge.
As the veterans walked, car horns honked to thank them for their service.
Maricopa Police Lt. Tim Miller was presented with a 9/11 display by veteran Julia Gusse.
“Many of us here today either enlisted or served during the Iraq conflict during Operation Desert Storm,” Gusse said at the ceremony. “And many of you here today enlisted after the tragedy that occurred on this morning 20 years ago. We were told this 20-year war on terrorism has come to an end — I hope so, I truly hope so. This honor walk is to remember, honor and thank all our brothers and sisters who served in uniform, for all our brothers and sisters who were injured, and especially for all our brothers and sisters that never made it back.”
Miller told his story after receiving the display. He was on active duty in the Navy for six years, went into law enforcement for a time, then got out of law enforcement. Once 9/11 happened, he went back into law enforcement in 2002 after seeing “all the heroic acts of the officers and firefighters in New York City.”
A few other veterans shared their story and what remembering 9/11 means to them.
Peter Macaraeg was in the Navy for 16 years, mostly in the reserve but also in active duty. He had a brother-in-law who served 26 years in the Air Force, a sister who served six years in the Air Force, a retired sister who served 22 years in the Army and a brother-in-law who served six years in the Navy.
Macaraeg said he remembers what he was doing on 9/11 very clearly. He was visiting his parents at the time. His father woke him up from his sleep, wanting to know if what he was seeing on the TV was a movie or actually happening.
“I woke up and saw on the TV news the second plane hit the second tower, and I just said, ‘Dad, this is real. This is not a movie,’” he said. “After that, I couldn’t believe that it did happen. I will never forget that day.”
About an hour after he saw the plane crash, he got a call from a reserve unit saying they were calling to make sure everyone was aware of what happened.
Macaraeg shared his thoughts on what remembering 9/11 means to him.
“This is like a Pearl Harbor to the new generation,” he said. “It hurts that they did this to us. It’s a history that I will never forget. ... I’m gonna live every year remembering it for all the loss that we had, non-military, civilian people that were in the towers and the military people in the Pentagon. It means a lot to me.”
Lynise Grell served eight years in the Army. She has a cousin in the Air Force and her grandfather and an uncle were in the Navy and her dad’s uncle was in the Army.
When 9/11 happened, Grell was in her sophomore year of high school.
“I came into the classroom and it was back when they used to have the news on the TVs in the morning and I think the first tower had already been hit, so they were showing that on the TV,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was us and then I realized that it was us. It changed the whole day. All day long that’s what we did in all of our classes was watch the news.”
Grell also shared her thoughts on what the remembrance of 9/11 means to her.
“It’s remembering everybody who served and gave their lives trying to save people and afterwards everything that everybody did coming together as a community and having each other’s back and being united,” she said.
Henry Wade, Maricopa city councilman, is a retired Air Force veteran of 20 years, 27 days and counting. In his immediate family, he was the only one who really served in the military.
He was just waking up on the morning of 9/11 when he heard his wife scream in shock.
“I woke up out of my sleep and saw what was going on,” he said. “Smoke billowing out of the first tower. I was amazed that this was happening, that someone was actually attacking the U.S. Then, when the tower dropped, I just fell to my knees and started praying for all the people.”
Wade shared his thoughts on what remembering 9/11 means to him.
“We are a good country,” he said. “American citizens are good people. They stand up when it’s needed. They come to your aid. My favorite six words are ‘for liberty and justice for all.’ That capsulates it for me.”
At the remembrance event at the fire department, many people gathered under two awnings with chairs or standing and phones ready to take photos and videos of the ceremony, honoring and remembering those now and 20 years ago who sacrificed their lives or who still serve this country.
Police Chief James Hughes, along with some other officers, also said a few words in remembrance of 9/11 and those who served and sacrificed their lives on that day.
Midtown Firehouse in New York City lost everyone they sent out that day to help save lives. It was one of the first to respond to the call that morning. Hughes said it was one of the “most heroic” acts and the “commitment to duty was amazing.”
“We learned that honor, duty and service remains in our hearts and we learned to never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “That day we met the worst of humanity with the best of humanity.”
He said we not only remember those who were in public service, but also those who were trapped in the towers leading people to safety, and gave their lives selflessly.
Hughes served as a police officer in New Jersey for 25 years, and will “never forget his emotions on that day.” He felt “shock and helplessness.”
He said he was close enough to see the smoke from the towers, but unable to get there to help because all the ways to get there were blocked off. His mother was thankful he wasn’t going, saying “that’s good.” It came from a mother’s intuition, especially now learning over 1,000 people and counting passed away from respiratory illness and/or cancer directly related to the hazardous material exposure from the towers collapsing.
He said he’ll never forget coming home from work after his shift on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, looking down his road, every house proudly displaying an American flag.
“A wave of American pride came over me,” he emotionally said. “A pride that puts a lump in your throat that I still have today and the fight in your eyes, which I still have today.”
He said he realized something good came from these terrible acts of terrorism. This country’s spirit never left. It was sitting humbly at the ready to accept any challenge, no matter the generation.
“Fellow Americans committed to something larger than themselves,” he said. “Working together, supporting each other and, today, mourning together. Today is about remembering those who we lost. May their memories come to life every year on this day, and let us celebrate their sacrifices to secure their place in American history as heroes and patriots.”