Saturday morning's sapphire blue skies were overshadowed by some passing clouds as the town of Vienna paused to remember those lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Vienna Community Band Trombone Quartet played softly as the Vienna Police Department solemnly displayed the flags of Virginia and the United States while about 50 residents stood, hand over heart, for the annual memorial ceremony.
Mayor M. Jane Seeman read from a proclamation that the town board adopted earlier in the week, calling the attacks “unprovoked.”
“Whereas America can fight back by reminding the world that the deaths of these people will always be remembered and they will be forever loved,” she said.
Charles J. Nackos, former commander of the Vienna American Legion Post 180, introduced the featured speaker, Col. Todd T. Semonite of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nackos said that Semonite was going to tell about “the other side of the story” in Iraq, “not what you read in certain papers or see on TV.”
In the middle of his introduction, Nackos was interrupted by the final series of memorial bells, ringing for the victims of the fourth hijacked plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Semonite spoke to the crowd about the men and women he’d worked with in Iraq recently, telling the story of a little girl in Basra that would wave to his brigade while driving into town every day.
“I took a picture of her and put it up in our command post,” Semonite said. “Every day I would point to her picture and tell them, ‘Remember, we’re doing this for her.’”
Semonite spoke of the attacks, the victims and the “selfless acts of courage” demonstrated by countless civilians and public servants immediately following the attacks.
“Kathy Mazza … served in the Port Authority Police Department,” he said. “She was never ordered to go to Ground Zero … She knew that dozens of her own officers were assisting in the evacuation effort. She died when the South Tower collapsed.”
Semonite told the red, white and blue appareled crowd about the work being done in Iraq and Afghanistan, how the troops are working daily to make life there better for the citizens of these impoverished and war-torn nations.
“Over 1,230 schools have been repaired and upgraded, they will open for classes next week,” he said. “Over $65 million of water sanitation projects have been started, improving health conditions.”
“But nothing can ease the pain of those who lost loved ones in the attacks,” Semonite said. “So above all else, we remember the brave firefighters, the police officers and National Guardsmen who put their lives on the line three years ago,” he said.