On a bright day, similar to the weather in New York City 19 years ago when terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Belfast Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars Randall Collins Post 3108 led their annual walk across  Veterans Memorial Bridge. They walked to remember the victims and heroes who died during the deadly attacks that took place in two cities Sept. 11, 2001.

Veterans and members of the public joined the walk started by the Lions Club, which the VFW helps plan every year. It commemorates a moment in history that stands out in the minds of many Americans; most people can recall what they were doing when they learned about the attacks.

The event was initiated by the late Ray Hall, a member of the Lions, but Lion Gary Philbrick has chaired the it for five years. The Lions Club walks the bridge three times after the VFW plays "Taps" and performs a 21-gun salute.

VFW Commander Anthony Kimble said the period right after the attack was a brief time in our country when people came together to fight against a common evil, but now the country is divided along political lines and he wishes people could carry on the sense of unity felt back then.

He said it is important to teach the younger generation, some of whom were not alive then, or were too young to remember the attacks, about the event so it is never forgotten. He hopes the United States can go back to the solidarity felt after the attack, but wonders if it is possible with social media, which can foster political divisions between people.

The march happens every year at the same place and time, with participants taking their first steps across the bridge at 8:46 a.m., no matter the weather. One year a walker carrying a flag was almost swept off the bridge during a hurricane, but Kimble said it is most important to people to show remembrance.

He remembers being in a college sign language class 19 years ago at age 31, when the teacher signed to the class what had happened. He asked if she was signing that a plane had struck the Twin Towers, to which she responded verbally, breaking class protocol, with “yes.”

VFW Operations Manager Jim Roberts said the event is not about political parties or ideologies; it is about remembering the victims. “After the 9/11 attacks, our country came together, we were united,” he said.

The Sept. 11 attacks (often referred to as 9/11), were intended to be a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers in a fourth plane, believed to have been destined for the White House, foiled that attack by overpowering the terrorists and taking the plane down; it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.

The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and substantial long-term health consequences, in addition to at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.

Sept. 11, 2001, marked the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively.

A moment never forgotten

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Duncan Milne spoke at the event. He remembers being deployed in the Pacific at the time of the attack, returning from flying a plane over the South China Sea at about 2 a.m. local time, he said.

He was then ushered to a television, where he and other servicemen watched reports about the attack. His sister had been working as a temp at the World Trade Center at the time. He was able to call her on a satellite phone, before cell phones were commonplace, and spoke to her, relieved to learn she was not at work that day.

He then called his wife and daughter in California to verify that they were safe, though his daughter was not allowed back in their home on a military base for much of the day after the military implemented a lockdown, he said.

VFW member Carmine Pecorelli is a 95-year-old three-war veteran who attends the event every year. He lost a cousin in one of the planes that struck the Twin Towers and a friend who was on the 90th floor of one of the buildings.

His eyes turned a little red and watered some when he spoke about them beside the bridge after the walk. He remembers them through much of the bridge walk every year, he said. “It’s a sign of gratitude, it’s a sign of respect and it's a sign of pride,” he said of the event.

The Belfast chapter of the Patriot Riders, a motorcycle group that assists veterans, attends the event every year carrying flags. Chapter President Lloyd Stover Jr. said over half the people in the chapter are veterans.

He remembers working for Lane Construction when the attack occurred and said he and his crew found a TV and watched the events unfold. Shortly afterward, the construction company sent trucks down to New York to assist with cleanup and reconstruction.

He remembers feeling terrible for those who lost their lives, thinking “they were totally innocent people.” He hopes people remember how Americans' lives were changed after the attack.

“I just wish everybody remembers that 19 years ago last night somebody went to bed with their significant other for the last time,” he said.