An almost reverent hush fell over the hundreds of people gathered at Fire Station #1, 300 W. Reagan Parkway, Medina, as the bell tolled six times: four for the four events on 9/11, once for the first responders, and once for our military.
The momentous occasion, sponsored by the Medina Rotary and the City of Medina, took place July 28. The long-awaited dedication ceremony for the Medina 9/11 Memorial was about to begin, at 10:03 a.m., in honor of Flight 93, the hijacked plane that flew a mere 6,000 feet directly over Medina before crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at that hour.
Posting of the Colors by the Honor Guard (American Legion #202 and VFW #5137) was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, and an opening prayer by Chaplain and Rotarian Reid Miller. Rotary District Governor Beverly Ghent-Skrzynski said this ceremony was proof the human spirit had triumphed over cowardice.
Medina City Mayor Dennis Hanwell said this day was about recognizing those who put their lives on the line day in and day out to keep us safe. It was about preserving our history for generations to come.
Brunswick City Mayor Ron Falconi told the audience it was a day to commemorate the sad but patriotic turning point in our nation's history. He encouraged people to never forget acts of war, but to always remember the many stories of bravery; they serve as reminders of how fragile life, liberty, and the pursuit of freedom really are.
Wadsworth City Mayor Robin Laubaugh said she remembered, as did most people, where she was and what she was doing when the news broke about the attack, and how her initial momentary confusion turned to fear, and then terror when she realized it was a real, deliberate attack on U.S. soil, a day of devastation.
Mayor Hanwell said the day of dedication was about the present as much as what led up to it, the tragedy of 9/11. It was a day to pay tribute to the collaboration of the whole county, people who rallied to forge ahead to, among other things, complete a project initiated nine years ago by the late Rotarian Bill Cohen and the late Medina Mayor Jane Leaver.
As Hanwell was describing how the site for the Memorial was chosen, one of the flags next to the podium was blown over by the wind. He simply lifted it up, held on to it, and continued speaking until a firefighter quietly stepped forward and held it upright through the rest of the presentation. A sign, perhaps, of how people stand at the ready and come together to defend against unexpected forces.
Hanwell commended Rotarian Dr. Kelly Low for seeing that the dream of Cohen and Leaver became a reality, even though it meant constantly dodging obstacles. Hanwell injected a humorous anecdote, telling the audience Low's mother told him he should give her daughter a key to the city. He countered by saying no one had keys to the city, it wasn't in the budget.
After a slightly embarrassed Low laughingly said to her mother, "I can't believe you said that to the Mayor," the emotional Low emerged as she tried to give heartfelt thanks to everyone who came forward to make this project a success.
She then introduced a man she described as a real hero, Master Sergeant Chris Spence, United States Army, Green Beret, Retired, who spent 25 years proudly serving his country, 17 of them with Special Services. Spence was one of the first Americans deployed to Afghanistan; the recent movie, "12 Strong," portrays this true story of 21st century Horse Soldiers.
He told the audience he was extremely honored to be attending this dedication because monuments serve many purposes, but chief among them is that they are reminders of the sacrifice, courage, and, sadly, the evil that still exists.
Soloist Donna Bica sang a very moving rendition of "America" to close the indoor portion of the program. Everyone filed outside as the flag was raised, a gun salute was presented, and taps were played at the site of the Memorial, the pavilion, and the beautiful surrounding gardens.
The ribbon around the two-ton symbolic slab of steel beam salvaged from the wreckage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center was cut, officially, forever, recognizing all the heroes - veterans, police officers, firefighters, and first responders - who constantly strive to keep our country free.