Last Sunday, September 11, 2016, was cloudy and humid, although it was nothing like the drencher on September 11 last year. The Boston Public Garden was a welcome green space, after our long summer drought. Shortly before 7:30 a.m., a crowd of perhaps 200 or more gathered at the site of the 9-11 Memorial to the right of the Garden’s Arlington Street entrance. They were there to take part in the 2016 Memorial Ceremony – the 15th such event. Among the attendees were Governor Charlie Baker, Lt.-Gov. Karyn Polito, and Mayor Marty Walsh.
The 9-11 Memorial – “The people of Massachusetts will always remember … “ – is something like a grotto. One can sit and contemplate the sweep of the granite scroll containing the 206 names of those from here who died, or simply look out across the Public Garden. It is invariably a peaceful spot. It is designed to keep the painful memory of that tragic event evergreen.
Promptly at 7:30, the assembled crowd heard the skirl of distant pipers, who were slowly playing “Amazing Grace”. They marched through a field of 2,996 red, white, and blue American flags – one for each 9-11 death – implanted around the 9-11 Memorial by 9-11 volunteers, who had begun their task at 5 a.m. that morning. The pipers finished “Amazing Grace” and posted by the horses of the mounted Park Rangers.
Mayor Walsh delivered the ceremony’s remarks eloquently, mentioning the 206 9-11 victims from Massachusetts, one of whom was a young cousin of Lorrie Higgins. He forcefully stated that 9-11 won’t ever be forgotten, using words such as “standing strong”. He was then joined by the Mathai family – Teresa, their mother, with Michelle and Robert – who lost their husband and father in the 9-11 disaster. It was Teresa Mathai who later founded the Massachusetts 9-11 Fund. The four of them emplaced a wreath of white flowers at the Memorial. A minute of silence followed, marked by the soft pealing of the Arlington Street Church’s bells. Afterwards, the BFD Choir rendered “God Bless America”.
We’ll add our own firmly held opinion that Americans must never forget 9-11.
The results of that terrorist attack, measured in numbers, are horrifying. It was the most damaging single enemy attack ever to occur on our soil – more damaging than the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the start of World War II. The death toll from Pearl Harbor was 2,403. From 9-11, it was 2,996 – almost 600 more lives lost. And remember, Pearl Harbor was an attack on a U.S. Naval base, a military installation. The 9-11 attack was leveled against peaceable, work-a-day civilians on the way to their jobs. And later on, we residents of Boston also suffered yet another terrorist action during our 2013 Marathon, a sporting event.
There have been many comments, questions, and criticisms about our involvement in the Middle East, from the invasion of Iraq to the nuclear treaty with Iran. But if anyone ever asks you why we are there, the answer is very simple: Because of what happened on September 11, 2001.