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Cape commemorates 9/11 anniversary

By Staff | Sep 11, 2011

Ten years to the date after the Sept. 11th attacks, residents and local officials gathered Sunday at ceremonies across Cape Coral to remember and honor those who lost their lives.

For the fifth year, the Suncoast Chapter of the American Airlines’ Kiwis Club hosted “A Day of Remembrance” at RumRunners at Cape Harbour. Hundreds attended the morning event, listening to stories from several former flight crew members and first responders. Some shared their own memories of that day, while others offered a glimpse into what would be a family member or friend’s final day.

To mark the moment when each airplane crashed, a bell was rung once, briefly silencing the ceremony.

The speakers were followed by a rose ceremony, held at the boat dock behind the restaurant. Attendees were invited to toss a white rose chosen by organizers to symbolize the innocent lives lost into the waters as “Taps” was played and white doves were released into the air. Marine vessels from local, state and federal agencies circled the waterway in a ceremonial salute.

Katie Gallardo attended the event with her 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, and Christopher Moore. Gallardo said it was her and Isabella’s first time taking part in the “A Day of Remembrance” ceremony.

“To never forget,” she said of why she came. “To honor those whose lives were lost, to pay tribute.” Moore, a Lee County EMS worker who came in uniform, as many did Sunday, had been before.

“To just never forget,” he said of why he attends. “Always remember.”

“It’s extremely important to us,” Gallardo added.

Event organizers Sharee Thieleman and Nancy Moylan estimated that there were 150 to 200 more people in attendance this year. Thieleman explained that the ceremony is meant to recognize the lives that were lost on 9/11, but also to help people accurately remember the events of that day.

“We never want anyone to forget,” Moylan said. “It was such a horrible thing.”

“We want them to know we know what happened,” Thieleman, a retired flight attendant, said.

After the attacks, Moylan, who was also a flight attendant then, faced 11 friends’ funerals in nine days.

“I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever get over,” she said.

Cape Coral Fire Chief Bill Van Helden spoke at the “A Day of Remembrance” ceremony, as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8463 “9/11 Remembrance” event. Held at noon at the post, the VFW ceremony also included guest speakers, as well as a 21-gun salute and wreath presentations.

Van Helden commented at both services on the atmosphere in America following Sept. 11th.

“There was a lot of mistrust that came to our country,” he said, adding that the public found trust though in its public safety and emergency workers, pilots and flight crews, and military personnel.

“There will always be a group of people you can trust,” he said referring to uniformed personnel.

Cape Coral Police Chief Jay Murphy also spoke at the VFW, along with Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmember Bill Deile. Murphy talked about the men and women who have given of themselves, sometimes their lives, since 9/11 by fighting overseas. He said six Cape officers are currently deployed and the members of his department are doing whatever they can to help those officers’ families.

“I think that we need to do that as a nation and stand behind our service men and women,” he said.

Murphy added that Americans also have to remember those that came before us.

Joe DiGregorio, with the VFW, said he has been organizing the “9/11 Remembrance” ceremony since 2002. A former New York firefighter, he lost his nephew in the attacks and he knew people who lost relatives who were first responders. DiGregorio said the point of the event is for people to remember.

“We do not want to forget,” he said.

Carol Morales and Linda Richter attended the VFW ceremony for the first time Sunday. Members of a local VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the women said they were present to show their support. “It’s an honor to those who sacrificed,” Richter said.

Morales, a former New Yorker, compared recalling Sept. 11th to remembering Pearl Harbor.

“It was a personal thing,” she said. “You know exactly where you were.”