Under heavy rain and low clouds overhead, a few hundred people gathered at Riverside Rotary Park Saturday morning in honor of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Amid the chilly air, Juneuites — many masked — stood side by side to remember the day. Volunteers passed out lapel pins to commemorate the occasion. The pins show an American flag and the Rotary memorial connected by the number 20. Local police officers and firefighters shared programs with the crowd.
Michelle Strickler, president of the Juneau-Glacier Valley Rotary club, offered welcoming remarks.
Carl Uchytil, City and Borough of Juneau port director and retired member of the Coast Guard, provided an invocation.
Then, Stickler invited the crowd to welcome and thank Juneau’s first responders, many of whom created an Honor Guard around the flag pole. Several other uniformed first responders and military members stood throughout the crowd.
Mayor Beth Weldon, the retired division chief for Capital City Fire/Rescue, led the line of well-wishers with a socially distant elbow bump. Several people followed her lead.
To honor the fall of the first tower at 9:59 a.m., officers quickly raised an American flag and then lowered it to half-staff while Alyssa Fischer sang the National Anthem.
Sylvia Madaras, a member of CCF/R, shared her memories of Sept. 11, 2001.
She said that she was a second-grade student in Pennsylvania when the attack occurred and that her teacher closed the blinds and asked all the students to sit quietly that afternoon.
She said that school was dismissed early that day. On the bus ride home, she saw her bus driver crying while the older children sat quietly. Her older sister, who had seen the events on TV that day, tried to explain what happened as the pair walked home from the bus stop.
Madaras said the news of the day did not make much sense to her at the time but that she remembered the grief of her mother, who lost a close friend in New York City that day. She recalled her sadness in the following months as the handful of students of Pakistani descent at her school were subject to unkind statements.
She ended on a hopeful note reminding that crowd that humans are capable of many things — including love, acceptance and coming together. She said that when she remembers the day, she thinks of the funeral of her family friend.
She said the funeral was attended by people from several faiths. The officiant reminded those gathered that the deceased would not want the occasion of his burial to divide people but to bring them together.
After her remarks, Weldon laid a wreath at the flag pole as Franz Felkl, concertmaster for the Juneau Symphony, played “Amazing Grace” on his violin.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org.