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9/11 marked in Cape Coral

By Staff | Sep 12, 2010

By TIFFANY REPECKI, trepecki@breezenewspapers.com
The victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were remembered across the nation Saturday and it was no different in the city of Cape Coral.
The Suncoast Chapter of the American Airlines Kiwi Club hosted “A Day of Remembrance at RumRunners, at 5848 Cape Harbour Drive, at Cape Harbour. The memorial service opened with a presentation of the colors, followed by the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Speakers then shared with the audience their personal story or involvement with the tragedy, from flight attendants to an EMS worker and a police officer on the ground.
Nancy Moylan, an American Airlines, Boston-based international flight attendant, told the story of friends who were on the planes that crashed. One woman relayed moment-by-moment updates over the plane radio on what was going on until the line went dead.
Another American Airlines employee recalled how the day unfolded for her at the sales office in Virginia. Karen Thomas was at work when her husband called asking if Thomas knew anything about a plane crash. Details about what was happening began to pour in.
“We couldn’t fathom what was going on,” she said.
“I will always remember that day,” Thomas added.
Retired United Airlines pilot Francis P. McConnell and Ruth McConnell, a retired American Airlines flight attendant, told the story of those who fought back on United 93 against armed hijackers. They talked about passengers who dialed family and friends on plane telephones during the final moments of their lives to speak to them one last time.
Lt. Randy Kraus, of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, was a New York City EMS worker when the attacks took place. Kraus saw his co-workers enter the south tower to search for survivors, then watched in horror as the tower collapsed 20 minutes later. He knew his friends were gone.
“I am here today to ask you to please, keep the memory alive,” Kraus said.
Local officials also took the podium to extend their condolences and sentiments.
“It is truly a humble time to be here,” interim Cape Police Chief Jay Murphy said.
Division Chief Tom Tomich, with the Cape Coral Fire Department, also spoke.
“The events of Sept. 11, 2001, left an indelible mark,” he said.
“Our nation was hit hard that day,” Tomich added, noting that many people lost their lives. “But we became fiercely united.”
It was clear that day in 2001 that what happened was not unimaginable.
“We must remain prepared, we must remain vigilant,” he said.
“As a nation and a local community, we must not forget the lessons learned that day,” Tomich added.
During the ceremony, a bell was rung at the specific time each plane went down — American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175, American Airlines flight 77 and United Airlines flight 93. Following the speakers, bagpipes were played as white roses were tossed into the water in remembrance of the fallen.
Sandy Pagden-Gribaudo, a retired American Airlines flight attendant, explained that white roses were chosen because white represents the “pure innocence” of those killed.
Punta Gorda resident Joel Robinson was present during Saturday morning’s memorial. Robinson, who was living in New York when the tragedy occurred, said he attended the ceremony to remember what happened and show love for those lost and their families.
“It was such a horrible time,” Robinson said, adding that out of the horror came one positive — a nation united.
“What I do miss is how the community came together,” he said.
Robinson did not lose anyone close to him in the attacks, but a regular customer at the store he was working at was killed. When the women’s young son came into the store with a photograph of her, asking if anyone had seen his mom, everyone knew the truth.
“It just broke me up when I saw that,” he said, fresh tears filling his eyes.
Several agencies were present Saturday, including the Cape Coral police and fire departments, the Fort Myers Police Department, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Lee County EMS, the U.S. Coast Guard and members of the U.S. military, among others.
RumRunners provided the venue for free, along pastries and refreshments after.