ILION — Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the village of Ilion and Herkimer College teamed up to offer a remembrance ceremony Thursday evening at the Ilion Fire Station.
First responders, village officials and local residents gathered in front of the fire station for the event. The Ilion and Frankfort fire department aerial trucks were parked in the fire station’s driveway to fly a large American flag.
"It’s extremely important that we nurture that legacy," said Dan Sargent, assistant to the college president. He recalled those who responded bravely to the attacks and added, "We need to impart that legacy to our children."
Ilion Mayor Terry Leonard thanked the college and all who attended the ceremony. He said the attacks "made us stronger. They made us look at ourselves." He pointed out that of the more than 3,000 people killed during the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., more than 400 were police officers and firefighters.
Police Sgt. Matthew Palumbo recalled the first time he saw the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, he was 13 years old. Then, at the age of 21, he and others watched on television as they were destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I found it difficult to process," he said.
He was an advanced emergency medical technician with the Frankfort Fire Department at the time and when a call went out for volunteers, he signed up and, within a few days, headed for New York City with several others from Herkimer County. The volunteers were warned what to expect at Ground Zero, he said, and recalled seeing gray dust and abandoned vehicles.
"The sight of such destruction I can’t explain," he said.
He spent some time in New York City helping provide relief for local emergency crews.
Palumbo pointed out that those first responders who died on Sept 11, 2001, and those who serve locally all took the same oath.
Retired Army Sgt. Major Steve Smith said everything changed for those in the military after the terrorist attacks. He pointed out that those killed in New York City were average American citizens and those killed at the Pentagon were people serving in the military.
"Do you know why they attacked us? It’s because they hate who we are. They hate that we are the greatest country in the world," said Smith. "We have what it takes."
He said he has four children and missed graduations, proms and other milestones due to his service in the military, but he added that all Americans should be proud of who they are.
"We take care of ourselves," he said.
Ilion police officers and firefighters placed a pair of wreaths at the 9/11 display featuring a piece of the wreckage from the World Trade Center.
A color guard from the Herkimer VFW took part and a reception followed at the Ilion Elks Lodge.