MAYVILLE – Leaders across Chautauqua County are pushing keeping the memory of 9/11 alive as a new generation grows up without direct memory of the day.
There is a common phrase many people ask on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: where were you? However today there are thousands of local children who recall the day not as an experience, but rather, as a brief tale told in history class.
Among those leading the push, is County Legislator Elizabeth Rankin, who was among the highlighted speakers Saturday at a remembrance ceremony in Mayville.
A few weeks ago, Rankin brought her 16-year-old son to the ground zero memorial in New York City, using the visit as an opportunity to stress the importance of never forgetting the day.
“As it moves from our life experiences to the history books that we remember and we keep it alive, we make people understand what that day meant to us, and the sad thing is as we are not talking about that a whole lot in schools; so let’s support that and advocate for that,” said Rankin. “I certainly did with my son and I really think we need to make sure that’s something that our youth can remember moving forward”
Rankins words rang true to State Senator George Borrello, who agreed, saying many young people don’t remember the day as an experience, but a history lesson.
“Unfortunately we are getting further and further from that day, as Elizabeth pointed out to her 16-year-old son or my nieces and nephews that I’ve talked to them it’s not a memory, it’s a story. It’s a story that we are not telling enough,” said Borrello. “It’s a cliche, but it’s true those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but in this case there are those who hate this nation, that realize we are not remembering this day, and what the consequences were and that frightens me”
Those fears were real for so many people, including Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone.
“After September 11th, 2001 when I saw my brother deployed several times, the anguish that went through my family’s life, the anguish that I had worrying about him, I’m thankful that he is safe at home,” said Quattrone, who discussed parallels to the current situation overseas. “This year with the instances that are going on and have gone on in Afghanistan I fear that my son will be deployed and some of his friends and coworkers and fellow servicemen were deployed.”
Many people in the local community still have a connection to the horrific events, including County Executive P.J Wendel who says the day brings him back to country music star Alan Jackson’s famed song: Where Were You.
“We pause and wonder, and I was really responding to his lyrics, and I was teaching a class full of innocent children; high schoolers, innocences may be questioned at times but yet they were innocent to what was going on to the larger world around them,” said Wendel, who became emotional when discussing the loss of his friend, Amy King. “I was in shock as I watched what was happening even more shocked to hear that a lifelong childhood friend was aboard that plane the faithful day.”
This year marked 20 years since the attack, with many across the community paying homage to the victims that day. Groups from local police, fire, EMS and even sports teams got involved.
Teams like the Frewsburg youth football squad, who held a powerful tribute during their junior varsity game Saturday night when the players and cheerleaders walked their track to Jackson’s iconic tune.