The city commemorated the events of Sept. 11, 2001, with a ceremony at Market Square Tuesday night. Inspirational messages and uplifting songs filled the square as approximately 500 residents gathered around the fountain in front of a giant American flag hanging from City Hall.
Alexandria's own Gov. Mark Warner was among the dignitaries on stage. He cited the passage of the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln for inspiration and remembrance.
"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. ... It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here and have thus far so nobly advanced."
Warner said, "It is impossible to find better or more fitting words than those of Lincoln's to express how we feel about the events of Sept. 11 and why we are here tonight.”
Warner was only one of several dignitaries on stage to pay tribute and to honor the first responders of the city's fire, sheriff’s and police departments. U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8th) also spoke.
“Those heroes who went running into burning buildings to save others rescued more than people, they rescued the American spirit,” said Moran.
Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia also joined the chorus of tribute.
“As I left the Capitol to come here tonight, I heard the news that there are now armed anti-aircraft in the skies above us,” he said. “But even with that heightened state of alert, we are here doing what our president wants us to do, gathering in town squares all over America to show the true American spirit.”
Mayor Kerry J. Donley honored representatives from the sheriff’s, fire and police departments. “We salute your courage and heroism on Sept. 11 and throughout the past year,” Donley said. “The city has recovered, but we will never forget.”
THE SERVICE LASTED an hour, with the T.C. Williams choir and the Alexandria Harmonizers performing patriotic songs. Jackie Jones sang the national anthem, and the event ended with a moment of silence.
Councilman David Speck was one of the many elected officials who attended the service. “As a legislator, I think about things today that I thought about before, but in a very different way,” he said. “Security in the city has become perhaps the most important thing that we consider in relation to almost everything that we do. Personally, Nov. 22, 1963, is a date that most folks my age or older remember. We remember where we were when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot. Those who were born more recently don’t have such a date, or they didn’t until Sept. 11. I think that we feel more connected to each other as a result of this tragedy.”
Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland also reflected on how things have changed for him. “Our great law-enforcement officers have done just an outstanding job in protecting our city,” Cleveland said. “But they need every citizen’s help. I would encourage everyone who can to go through the citizens academy. You can learn what our police officers do, what kinds of things to report and how to report them. The next terrorist attack, and I believe that there will be one, will not come from the air. It will come on the ground. Our law-enforcement community is prepared, and citizens must be also.”
AS A U.S. Capitol Police officer, Cleveland felt the very direct impact of the terrorist attacks. “I was at the Capitol from 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 until after midnight,” he said. “I remember that when we decided to evacuate the Capitol, this young woman walked up to me and asked why I wasn’t leaving. We stayed until everyone was out of the building. It was our responsibility to protect the public and those who work at the Capitol from anything that might happen, and we didn’t know what that might be. We worked 12-hour days, six days a week, until February and then worked 12-hour days, five days a week and some weekends, until May. It is just now that I am back to a 40-hour workweek, and that is only because I have found another officer to fill in for me on weekends and in the evenings. It has been a year, and I feel that I need to devote more time to the citizens of Alexandria. Although throughout the year I have only missed one City Council meeting as a result of my work.”
After the service, City Council members went upstairs in City Hall to Council chambers to begin their work for the year.