Local ceremonies keep memories alive, while moving forward
JANESVILLE At local ceremonies on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, speakers talked about how the painful events of that day should be remembered.
"The impact of 9/11 will soon diminish. The next generation will not be marked with the vivid memories that we have," said Janesville Fire Chief Jim Jensen, at a ceremony Sunday at Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville.
"We remember. In fact, we say we will never forget," Jensen said. "But what does it mean to never forget? How do we best honor those who died? To never forget is to learn from that event."
About 150 attended the first ceremony. About 100 attended a second one Sunday afternoon. Some people were at both.
Both ceremonies honored the innocent victims, the first responders who gave their last full measure and those who fought two long wars after 9/11. But if the first ceremony was mostly concerned with remembrance, the second was with forgiveness and working for peace.
"Today is a difficult day. The memories are painful. Some wounds may never heal," said Mike Coogan of the Diversity Action Team of Rock County, which sponsored the interfaith event at Peace Park on Janesville's west side.
Nevertheless, the second ceremony was an effort to move toward healing hearts torn by the attacks.
That effort included words from a variety of local faiths—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha'i, Native American, Jewish and several Christian traditions.
Most of the words concerned love of neighbors, and even enemies.
"Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one's hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand," said the Rev. Stephen Umhoefer of St. Mary Church in Janesville, quoting from the Talmud.
Umhoefer said all faiths have texts of extreme cruelty and that we can be pushed to extremism, but common to the faiths is God's law of love.
"God says we must forgive," Umhoefer said. "Not easy. Not necessarily deserved, … but we must love one another."
In downtown Janesville, city firefighters are working to provide an enduring physical reminder of the attacks.
Monuments that include parts of the Twin Towers are being erected nationwide. Janesville's monument includes a steel beam from the towers, which firefighters dedicated and displayed Sunday.
The local monument is not yet ready, but the beam will be mounted on a 12-foot concrete tower at Firehouse Park and point east to New York City.
"Hopefully, 10, 15, 20 years down the line, when a lot of us are no longer here, you can come to this monument and understand what happened on 9-11-2001. And that's the purpose of it, so we never forget," said Janesville firefighter Lt. Dave Sheen,
Chief Jensen, who spoke at both ceremonies, noted he wasn't around for an earlier surprise attack on the nation, on Dec. 7, 1941. But Jensen visited Pearl Harbor recently and was moved.
"As firefighters, we are always waiting for the big one. I hope we never face a big one like 9/11 again, here or anywhere else, but there will be other big ones," Jensen said.
"Our firefighters and police officers will always be on front lines when emergency strikes. May we never forget."