Elgin remembers with ceremony, lessons
By Mike Danahey email@example.com September 11, 2012 1:10PM
Camara Neal, 4, stands with her father Aaron Neal of Elgin to honor the flag Tuesday during the September 11th Ceremony at Elgin City Plaza. September 11, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:25PM
ELGIN — Eleven years ago Tuesday, Tamika Morales was working as an auditor and having breakfast at a hotel in New Hampshire when the news broke on “Good Morning America” that one plane had hit the World Trade Center, then another.
The Brooklyn native promptly phoned home. She eventually learned that it took a friend 10 hours to get from Manhattan to her borough and that other friends had perished in the twin towers when they collapsed.
That same day, Tricia Dieringer was in a dentist’s office and had just received a shot of local anesthetic, when the procedure was hastened by the terrible news of the day. Dieringer soon was deployed with the Illinois National Guard to downtown Chicago in case a terrorist attack should hit the Midwest’s largest city.
On Tuesday morning — a crystal clear one much like weather 11 years ago — the two were among the dozens gathered in the Elgin City Plaza to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Morales was present with fellow teacher Maria Boada, walking 46 Channing Elementary School second-graders from a city parking lot to the Gail Borden Public Library when the group happened upon Tuesday’s ceremonies.
“Had we known about it, we would have come earlier,” Morales said.
A rifle salute from American Legion Elgin Post 57 led to shrieks from the class, then souvenir shell casings being given to their teachers, and lessons planned that afternoon about the infamous day from before these students were born.
Dieringer, a former commander of Elgin’s American Legion Post and its current Americanism chair, served as the emcee for the ceremony, where speakers touched on the national theme that marked the day as one of service and remembrance.
Police Chief Jeff Swoboda recalled the bravery of those working to save lives in New York and at the Pentagon and of passengers on Flight 93 who prevented their plane from being rammed into an intended target and who died when the airline crashed outside Shanksville, Pa.
He also noted the kindness shown in the aftermath of the attacks, stories of neighbors helping each other, politicians putting aside petty differences, if only for a short time — and said such memories should serve as a call to action.
Fire Capt. Robb Cagann mentioned the “humanity, perseverance, and selflessness” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the spirit of survival since.
And Mayor David Kaptain reminded the audience that in New York, public safety and public works employees are still battling residual effects of 9/11 and ailments related to exposure to toxic debris.
The day 11 years ago also sharply brought home how life is fragile and shouldn’t be taken for granted. While people acted bravely that day, the challenge now is for everyone to take action and help those less fortunate than themselves, Kaptain said.
Kaptain mentioned efforts in Elgin, including Love Elgin Days, Neighbor Works Days — which are serving as a model for other communities — and sustainability projects as examples of a city in tune with the intended meaning of the somber day.
“Volunteerism is the message we carry forward,” Kaptain said. “Every day we should make an effort to give back.”