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A region pauses for 9/11

New England marks date with prayer, resolve

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 9/12/2002

Across a history-rich landscape that once echoed with patriots' cries for freedom, New Englanders formally enshrined Sept. 11 among its indelible dates yesterday, marking a solemn anniversary with bowed heads, simple prayer, and a silence that briefly stilled the airport from which some of the attackers struck.

From the Battle Green in Lexington to Plymouth Rock, from Amherst to Beacon Hill, the terrorist attacks that sliced through the nation like shards of shattered glass were memorialized here as searing episodes of profound loss and unstinting national resolve.

After the names of local victims were recited to the strains of violin music at Faneuil Hall, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy's voice broke as he remembered fathers and mothers who left their homes a year ago and never returned to children accustomed to their backyard ballgames and late-night stories.

''I know something of what you feel,'' said Kennedy in an oblique reference to his assassinated brothers, John and Robert.

''To lose someone you love, and to lose them so suddenly, so unexpectedly, so terribly - to see them torn out of the fabric of life - is almost more than one can bear. And then, although we know the passage of a year cannot heal that memory, we move on because we have to; because they would want us to, and because there is still light left in the world.''

Besides formal ceremonies at public buildings and houses of worship, the images of the day reflected the pain and the patriotism provoked by aerial attacks that blackened bright skies last year.

Five women ran through a busy street in Dorchester waving a large US flag. School children dressed in red, white, and blue waited at early-morning bus stops. Firefighters in small towns stood at attention as sirens wailed and bells tolled.

Highway message boards told morning commuters: ''United We Stand.'' White-gloved police officers in dress blue uniforms stood ramrod straight and blinked away tears.

And Caroline Ogonowski, the 15-year-old daughter of American Airlines pilot John Ogonowski, who captained the first jetliner converted by hijackers into a weapon of war, spoke President Franklin Roosevelt's prayer to the nation on June 6, 1944, the day of the Allied forces' heroic assault on Normandy.

''Let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come,'' she said at the Faneuil Hall ceremony.

At Logan International Airport, where the team of hijackers boarded two jetliners, seized control and used them as guided missiles, all ground operations ceased at 8:46 a.m., the moment when American Airlines Flight 11, originally bound from Boston to Los Angeles, slammed into the north tower of New York's World Trade Center.

Airport personnel treated the gates from which the victims departed as hallowed ground yesterday, the last piece of earth upon which they were alive and free.

Heavily armed State Police SWAT teams patrolled the terminals, carrying automatic weapons. Bomb-sniffing dogs were led up and down hallways.

Traffic at Logan dropped abruptly yesterday to around 15,000 passengers, about half the airport's average, leaving the terminal nearly deserted.

Sisters Roberta Hummel and Nancy Usselman, nuns with the Order of St. Paul in Jamaica Plain, were boarding a flight to Florida. Their faith, they said, gave them strength to fly.

''It's more of God's providence. If you believe, you know when it's your turn to go, you go,'' said Usselman.

On college campuses across the region, there were bagpipes and inspirational readings. At Harvard University, several thousand people filed into the yard from the steps of Widener Library to the front of Memorial Church, listening to the reflections of students and chaplains.

''I have my own personal demons,'' 17-year-old freshman Damani Taylor, whose high school was five blocks from the World Trade Center, said before the event. ''A couple of weeks after, I was in a serene state and never really dealt with it. I'm not even seeking emotional closure because I have not even opened to it yet.''

In her only extended remarks on the anniversary, Acting Governor Jane M. Swift pledged to forever honor the memories of state residents killed in the attacks, and presented an award for bravery in memory of a flight attendant who died aboard Flight 11.

''One year ago today, our country and our Commonwealth experienced great tragedy and great loss - loss of 93 Massachusetts sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, who stood strong and tall in the face of danger,'' Swift said.

By creating the Madeline Amy Sweeny Award for Civilian Bravery, Swift said she hoped to celebrate the lives of local terrorist victims, while still mourning their deaths.

''We come here with the resolve that enormous tragedy of one infamous day will never outweigh the memories, the smiles, and the spirits of these special people,'' Swift said.

Following her remarks, Swift gave the award to Tiago Medeiros, 52, a Portuguese immigrant from Fall River who pulled an unconscious woman from a burning vehicle last October, seconds before it exploded off Route 24 in Freetown.

Earlier yesterday, the woman, 22-year-old Kelly Fateaux, met Medeiros for the first time since she fell asleep at the wheel and her car veered off the highway nearly a year ago. Walking to the podium to help present the award, Fateaux wiped away tears streaming down her face.

''I didn't really know what to say,'' Fateaux said afterward. ''How do you thank someone who saved your life?''

In Plymouth, planners of commemoration activities said they sought refuge from televised images of death and destruction in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. There was a family concert and an interfaith prayer service at Plimoth Plantation, and free admission to the living museum, where costumed guides assume the roles of Pilgrims.

''The program contains solemnity, reflection, hope, and joy,'' said Steven Karidoyanes, music director for the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra. ''And I personally believe it's very important to embrace those four feelings as a community so we can move forward.''

In Lowell, the American Textile History Museum opened a five-day exhibit of 29 ''Pentagon Quilts'' - creations collected by the Department of Defense after the attacks on the Pentagon last year. Each panel in the quilt memorializes one victim. ''They are warm blankets at the same time they are therapeutic to create,'' said museum curator Diane Fagan Affleck.

In Lexington, there were the stirring sounds of a fife and drum on the historic Battle Green as a Fire Department honor guard and Minutemen in Colonial-era clothing helped raise and then lower the Stars and Stripes to half-staff. Ceremonies concluded as people placed flowers and memorials at the base of the placard of names.

And in Portsmouth, N.H., peace activists urged anyone who would listen to think less of revenge and more about addressing the root causes of hatred.

For 81-year-old activist Macy Morse, standing in downtown Portsmouth's historic Market Square was an act of conscience.

''I'm here because I have to be,'' said Morse, a Portsmouth great-grandmother who was among two dozen activists who held a 24-hour vigil that concluded yesterday morning. ''There's so much tragedy, I just want to be part of something positive. I want this war over before I die.''

Across the street, war veterans distributed American flags to patrons of a trendy sidewalk cafe sipping coffee at outdoor tables.

''It's like the old days, except the demonstrations used to be violent - this is peaceful,'' said Elliott Antequera, 54, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the American Legion Post 6 color guard. ''I understand where they come from and hopefully they understand where I come from. That's the beauty of this place.''

Ellen Barry of the Globe Staff and Globe correspondents Benjamin Gedan, Andrew C. Helman, Alice Gomstyn, Robert Knox, Eric Goldscheider, Ryan Slattery, Clare Kittredge, Joe Spurr, and Caroline Louise Cole contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
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