Annual walk honors victims, heroes of 9/11

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 12, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Volunteers hold a flag printed with the names of first responders who died on 9/11 during a commemorative walk across Veterans Memorial Bridge Sept. 11.

Belfast — Veterans and community members walked Veterans Memorial Bridge Wednesday morning bearing flags to honor those who died Sept. 11, 2001, in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. The first steps on the bridge were taken at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Veterans of Foreign War Post 3108 Operations Manager Jim Roberts planned the all-volunteer event. The VFW has participated in the event since 2007 when the Belfast Lions Club invited the organization to march.

Since then, local organizations and community members have joined the march. This year, three active-duty Coast Guard members carried the U.S. flag.

Cars driving by honked at the procession, which also included state Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast. The group stood for a 21-gun salute and a trumpet rendition of "Taps" to honor those lost 18 years ago.

Roberts sees the annual 9/11 observance as a history lesson.

“It’s about keeping the memory alive,” Roberts said. “It’s those who fail to remember the history who are destined to repeat it. And we’re just trying to keep that memory alive to honor those who fell.”

Fourth District American Legion President Pamela Johnson joined the remembrance with eight fellow Legionnaires for the fifth year. Coming from a military family, she said she has always respected those who serve.

She was taking customer calls at Bank of America when the first plane struck one of the twin towers. The woman she was on the phone with was in New York. She was gasping and crying hysterically, saying, “This is the last payment I’m ever going to make.”

The second phone call she took was from a different woman in New York. She remembers hearing explosions in the background while she was talking.

“It was terrifying. I wasn’t there but I was there emotionally with the customers,” Johnson said.

The calls sent her into a panic, she said. She got off the phone and talked with her manager. Within a half-hour the bank was closed for the day and everyone went home.

Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton is a VFW member who has been participating in the walk for over eight years. He is a former member of the Marine Corps and Army National Guard.

He said he remembers watching the event unfold on television when he was a lieutenant with the Maine State Police. He was at an officers’ meeting in Bangor at the time that was disrupted by the unfolding events.

The Maine State Police chief instructed everyone to go back to their barracks where they called in extra resources. The day shift stayed late and night shift came in early, Trafton said. The law enforcement officers did not know what to expect but wanted to be prepared for anything.

Now, Trafton commemorates that moment with the bridge walk every year.

“I think it honors all of the folks who perished that day, and for me it reminds me how important it is to be an American,” Trafton said. “ … It’s good for my heart to see all these folks turn out today.”

 

Volunteers walk across Veterans Memorial Bridge to honor victims and first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Belfast Fire Department's memorial display in front of the fire station Sept. 11. More than 300 firefighters were killed 18 years ago in a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Veteran organization volunteers stand in silence during the 21-gun salute and playing of taps during the 9/11 Bridge Walk Sept. 11. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Lined up at Belfast VFW prior to their 9/11 walk across Veterans Memorial Bridge are Post Commander Anthony Kimble, foreground, with Sheriff Jeff Trafton, active duty Coast Guardsmen, members of Patriot Riders and Sons of the American Legion, Bank of America employees, and others who came to walk. (Source: Belfast VFW Website)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
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