Everyone (or maybe everyone who has easily triggered feelings) has that one song. The song that evokes emotions whether you want it to or not. Maybe they are happy emotions, maybe they’re sad — but no matter what you’re doing when you hear it, it gets you.
Wednesday morning, it turns out, several folks shared the moment when emotions overcame them because of a song. Just as a minute of silence ended and the bagpipes sounded, several people drew in their breath and moments later began wiping their eyes.
“Amazing Grace” touched a nerve. Of course, it may not have been the song alone. The simple ceremony held each year at Sheridan Fire-Rescue on the morning of Sept. 11 doesn’t include any rituals that would necessarily prompt tears in the more stoic among us.
It includes the ringing of a bell, first responders standing at attention, a short invocation, the release of doves, a welcome from Sheridan Fire-Rescue staff and a minute of silence. Then, everyone disperses, some taking refuge in the bay of the fire station, sharing coffee and doughnuts. Others head off to work and continue their days.
Victims’ families don’t read the names of loved ones lost. Photos aren’t shown of those who died Sept. 11, 2001, or of the scenes of the attacks.
The short ceremony, instead, gives each attendee a chance to reflect — to think of where they were when they heard the news of planes flying into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon and later the field in Pennsylvania.
Each person at the ceremony Wednesday likely could remember clearly where they were and what they were doing — except the children who attended with teachers and parents. Their memories will only be those passed down by parents and other adults.
They’ll learn about 9/11 through teachers and other adults, just as other generations learned about Pearl Harbor, the Challenger explosion and other major, national incidents. To some, the day feels like it was just yesterday. To others, it’s a distant, abstract event that you understand changed the world, but you don’t truly feel that change.
I’ve attended the ceremony at Sheridan Fire-Rescue every year that I could. If I was in town, I went. Each year, it seems, the number of attendees has dwindled. Maybe the memories are too hard to relive, time has removed the need for closure or life has just gotten busier and busier.
We all have our own ways of marking the day, which was evident as social media channels filled with photos and quotes, a couple of which stood out more than others — and were widely shared.
One said something like, “Eighteen years ago, 3,000 people woke up and hugged their family members for the last time before heading off to work.”
As community members gathered in front of our small-town fire department Wednesday morning, recalling their own deeply personal memories, honoring those who lost their lives and thinking about their own reasons for living and loving, the bagpipes sounded, and we all returned to Sept. 11, 2001.