Candlelight vigil for 9/11 draws crowd

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 12, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — As the bells tolled 8 o’clock, people began gathering on the steps of the courthouse.
The ceremony drew to a close the memorials of Sept. 11, a day spent reflecting on the losses of 10 years before.
The brass quintet from West Rowan High School played the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the school’s JROTC color guard presented the Stars and Stripes.
By candlelight, students in Rowan Youth Services’ Times Two mentoring program spoke of their memories of the terrorist attacks.
Now in their teens, their memories of 9/11 are of shock and uncertainty.
As they stood to speak, there were some nervous laughs, but also words from the heart.
“I was only a baby,” said Chris Vera, 14.
“I feel bad for those who lost their family members.”
His sister, Savannah, 16, said she felt bad for those who died.
“Some of them had little kids, and they will never know what it was like to see them grow up,” she said.
Laura Porter, who coordinates the Times Two program, watched as lit candles bathed the stone steps in light.
“It only takes one flame to start a fire, as you can see,” Porter said.
Some Salisbury Police officers and at least one man from the Salisbury Fire Department were in the audience.
“I grew up in Salisbury, but on 9/11 we were actually living in Lake Forest, Ill.,” said David Jones, who now lives in Wake Forest.
There were movers in the house, standing with them in the kitchen watching the attacks unfold.
“It was horrible,” he said, his voice breaking as tears came to his eyes.
“As a Vietnam veteran, I wondered how could our country allow this to happen? … Ten years later, I’m still searching for those answers,” Smith said.
Liz Tennent recalled how people working in the Salisbury city offices gathered around the television in disbelief.
“Ten years later, I’d like to think that our presence here, that your children’s presence here, is what the future is about,” Tennent said.
“If we’re not going to be about peace, then were never going to understand.”
Herman Peterson of Salisbury was still in the Army a decade ago.
The retired lieutenant colonel was at Fort Sam Houston and described the anger and frustration of not being able to do anything.
“It’s amazing,” Peterson said. “Ten years later, we’re still trying to figure this out.”
Miranda Smith, mentor with Times Two, said she was heartened by the recent visit of the Brotherhood Ride, emergency workers who rode to New York on bicycles to honor their fellow firefighters, police and medics.
“They said they were not the heroes, that they were representing the heroes,” Smith said.
“But they are heroes. They brought back hope, togetherness, inspiration.”
She, too, broke down in tears as she spoke.
Porter said the vigil came out of a recent meeting with the mentoring program’s advisory board.
“It’s a blessing because it gives me a different perspective than I had,” she said.
She said she hopes that those who attended will take away a feeling of tolerance and respect, so that another 9/11 will never happen.