Suburbs remember the horror and the unity after Sept. 11 attacks
More than two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the images linger for those who were alive that day.
"We will always remember the towers being struck by the planes," Elgin Fire Chief Robb Cagann said Sunday during a remembrance ceremony at the Hemmens Cultural Center. "The horrific images of flame, smoke and debris raining down from the buildings. We remember the images of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Flight 93."
While those memories remain, Elgin Mayor David Kaptain suggested something has faded in the years since 9/11 -- the unified spirit of the nation in the aftermath of the attacks.
"We're living in a time of political infighting," he said. "We're living in a little bit of a time of hatred within our country. We're living in times of conflict. We're living in a time of cheap shots. And that's not us.
"Those days will pass, trust me. It's not going to be this way forever."
Recalling the days after the attacks as a time when people treated each other with respect, were willing to lend a helping hand, and forgave mistakes, he urged the audience to remember those lessons as they look to the future.
The Elgin ceremony included a ringing of bells by Elgin fire Lt. Jason Walczak in tribute to, among others, New York police officers and firefighters, Pentagon military and civilian personnel, the nearly 3,000 dead and 6,000 casualties, and the first responders still suffering and dying.
The United Methodist Cornerstone Church Praise Choir sang "You'll Never Walk Alone," and Elgin police Sgt. James Lalley played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.
In Hoffman Estates, a ceremony originally scheduled to take place at the veterans memorial moved inside police headquarters because of the day's rain.
Mayor Bill McLeod reminded the audience of the nation's armed forces' continuing role in combating terror, and Fire Chief Alan Wax spoke about the impact of the attacks.
"We don't just remember the horrific images that we saw, but we remember the emotions that we felt. And those emotions have become a part of who we are as individuals and as a nation," he said.
"There is a whole generation that cannot internalize any such memories," Wax added. "It is mind-boggling to me that the young adults of today, those that are our future leaders in our society, have no personal memory of the events that unfolded that day in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"It is up to all of us to teach the next generation the meaning and the impact of the events of 9/11."