As the town joined the nation Wednesday in marking the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Police Chief Gary MacNamara told a local memorial ceremony that a phrase he finds "kind of numbing" often is heard in relation to that day.
That phrase is, `Never forget,' " MacNamara told those gathered in front of Fire Department headquarters. "We hear `Never forget' over and over again, and I kind of asked myself, what is it I'm never supposed to forget."
People should, he said, take the time to remember just what that means.
"I will never forget Sept. 10, for on that day, our world was different," MacNamara said. "It seemed our future was more certain." And, the chief added, he won't forget how on Sept. 11 he watched as the World Trade Center collapsed, or waiting at the train station along with local clergy to provide comfort to those coming back from New York City, or the "images of frantic souls falling from buildings."
"There's a lot of stuff we should never forget," MacNamara said, such as learning how "close evil was to Fairfield" when it was later discovered that some of the terrorists spent the night in a local motel.
People should, he added, change "Never forget" to "Always remember."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau said it seems like the terrorist attacks were only yesterday and not 12 years ago.
"These challenges, these questions, are still with us," Tetreau said. "The world is different."
Fire Chief Richard Felner read the words of poem written in the wake of the attacks that urged people to remember the names of those who died. "We are the ghosts of 9-11. We lived, loved, ate and drank and looked forward with an eagerness and hope. Like each of you, we had a name."
In addition to those who died in New York, at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, Assistant Fire Chief Eric Kaliper, vice president of the firefighter's union, said other names need to be etched in memories of the terrorist attacks.
"In this age of 24-7 news cycles and 44 character news tweets," he said, there was a recent Associated Press 129-word story about 12 members of the New York Fire Department who didn't die in the immediate aftermath of the Twin Tower attacks, but in the months and years since, from illnesses related to their rescue work at the site.
Their names have been engraved on a memorial wall in New York City, Kaliper said, but were not provided in the brief news story.
"As we pay tribute to those who passed on 9/11, let us not forget those who have perished since then," he said, whether they were a firefighter in West Texas or New York or Arizona. "Society and elected politicians have a moral obligation to provide unconditional care" for injured firefighters or the families of those who have died. "We are a nation defined by its values," Kaliper said.
Probate Judge Daniel Caruso told the gathering that a moment of silence was a fitting tribute on the anniversary, "because that silence is what so many recall from that day. It is heard in the inaudible gasps as we watched the destruction, in the stillness along our highways and byways as we awaited word."