BURRILLVILLE – At 0846 hours on September 11, 2001, a plane struck One World Trade Center in New York City, in a tragic attack against the United States that would leave the country and its people forever changed.
Exactly 20 years later in Burrillville, church bells will ring, while sirens and horns blare out from emergency vehicles, marking that first moment of impact.
An event dubbed, “Burrillville Remembers,” will take place at Firefighters Memorial Park in Harrisville on Saturday, Sept. 11, commemorating the anniversary of the tragedy with speakers and participation by community groups.
The public is invited to attend the free commemoration, set to begin at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and greetings. Rhode Island Department of Health Chief of the Center for Emergency Medical Services Jason Rhodes, who is also a member of the Harrisville Fire Department, will deliver opening remarks, followed by the presentation of colors by members of the town’s three fire districts, along with the police department and Burrillville Allied Veterans Council.
Ponaganset High School student Caroline Rhodes will sing the Star Spangled Banner before the streets of Burrillville are flooded with a chorus of sound, recognizing the moment that American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower.
Officials at all seven churches in town have been asked to ring their bells, while fire personnel activate emergency sirens.
“I thought it was a good moment to bring the Burrillville community together, from all disciplines,” said Harrisville Fire Chief Michael Gingell, who helped to organize the event.
Town Councilor Dennis Anderson will deliver opening remarks before a second solemn moment at 9:03 a.m. when the group marks the strike on the South Tower.
At the small Harrisville park, home of a 13-foot-long steel artifact salvaged from wreckage of the World Trade Center, guests will sit in silence.
Harrisville Deputy Fire Chief Marcel Fontenault, who also helped to plan the memorial, noted that the attack two decades ago caused single greatest loss of firefighters in a single event.
“It means a lot to us, especially with the memorial across the street that we see every day,” Fontenault said.
The artifact, set between pieces from former town mills to represent the Twin Towers, was brought to Burrillville by former Harrisville Fire Chief Mark St. Pierre, who is now serving as interim fire chief in the village of Pascoag.
Guests to the park, which has not often been used for community events since the monument was erected years ago, are invited to bring lawn chairs. Additional seating will be available for those who need it, and a tent has been secured in case of rain, but Gingell noted that the weather is expected to be nice.
Parking is available at nearby St. Patrick’s Church, with handicap parking in front of fire station across the street.
On Saturday, Sen. Jessica de la Cruz will deliver remarks before the keynote speaker, Father Robert Marciano, a chaplain for the United States Air Force. Marciano served at the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and as Chief of Chaplains for the Air National Guard rising to the rank of colonel from 2006 to 2010. He was chaplain for the Rhode Island National Guard when he retired in 2016.
All will go silent again at 9:37 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Audrey Saben, a Burrillville High School student in the Class of 2023, is scheduled to read a poem, before closing remarks are delivered by Burrillville Police Department Col.Stephen Lynch. Sam Manley of the Westport Fire Department will play Amazing Grace on the bagpipe before the gathering ends with fellowship and refreshments.
The short program will likely be finished before the final tragic act 20 years ago – when a fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa. Those who wish to remember the 44 victims who died on United Airline Flight 93 are asked to to have a moment of personal reflection at 10:03 a.m.
Organizers note the commemoration will draw attention to the importance of events and sacrifice that shaped American history.
“Twenty years is a milestone,” said Fontenault. “It’s so long ago and it’s vivid in some of our minds, but there were a lot of people who weren’t born yet.”
Gingell said he hopes many attend, noting that the planning committee aimed to incorporate representation from various groups in town.
“We have faith, as well as schools, veterans and public safety, making this a Burrillville community event,” he said.