PROVIDENCE – A huge U.S. flag, held aloft at the entrance to the Statehouse lawn by the extension ladders of a pair of Providence fire trucks, greeted the approximately 100 people who attended the 10th anniversary observance of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Sunday.
Rhode Island’s state and federal officials, along with police and firefighters from numerous cities and towns, gathered on the Statehouse steps below a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds reminiscent of the beautiful day September 11 started out to be to honor the families of those with Ocean State ties who died that day and the first responders who put their lives on the line as part of their job description. Atop the Statehouse, U.S. and Rhode Island flags flew at half-staff.
The Providence Police Bag Pipers played “Amazing Grace” and a bugler from the RI Army National Guard played “Taps.” A 21-gun salute was fired by the Warwick Police Department Honor Guard.
The family of Donnalee Charette of West Warwick was struck twice by tragedy.
Her son, 38-year-old Mark Charette, was attending a business meeting on the 100th floor of one of the two World Trade Center towers when one of the hijacked airliners struck the building just below that level. She wore his photograph on her lapel at the ceremony.
Four years later, Marine Cpl. Holly Charette was killed in Iraq when her convoy was struck by a suicide bomber. She was the granddaughter of Mark’s uncle.
Ronnie Tetreault of Johnston held a photograph of his sister, Renee Tetreault Newell, throughout the speaking program. He was wearing a t-shirt with the same photo silkscreened on it. Renee was a flight attendant but was on one of the hijacked airliners as a passenger when it hit the first tower. He told reporters, “She had a heart of gold.”
Gov. Lincoln Chafee told those in attendance that “Sept. 11 was a tragedy on every level imaginable,” and “a scar we will live with for many generations.” Referring to the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the governor said, “the conflicts continue to this day, with no end in sight.”
He said the attacks came at a time when “the tragedy of the Second World War and the Cold War were forgotten and an age of lasting peace beckoned” and “ripped us from a time of peace to a time of war.”
The damage done on 9/11 can’t be undone, Chafee said, “but it is possible to reach back to a time when a lasting peace seemed within our grasp.”
Sen. Jack Reed said, “today is a day of remembrance and recommitment. We must recommit ourselves not just to defeat the enemy but to build a peaceful and prosperous world where hope and opportunity overcome fear.”
“Out of a sky as blue as today’s,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said, “came a morning of horror and a decade that changed America.”
Rep. James Langevin, who had become a congressman in 2001, recalled watching the news reports from New York City on television and seeing the black smoke rising over Washington from the nearby Pentagon, saying, “the sense of vulnerability was palpable as we realized America was under attack.” But, he added, “because of our values and our commitment to freedom and democracy, this country will endure.”
Calling for a day of service “to honor those who were lost and to do something positive,” Rep. David Cicilline organized clean-up efforts at the Veterans Memorial in Pawtucket and at Central Falls’ Jenks Park later in the day Sunday.
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who was a Pawtucket police lieutenant 10 years ago, said that, on that day, “I like every other police officer and firefighter felt a feeling of helplessness. We first responders wanted to be there.”
Kilmartin said he lowered the flag at his home to half-staff Sunday and with no wind “the flag gently rested against the flagpole.” He recalled inadvertently leaving the flag out during the hurricane two weeks ago and “the fabric of that flag did not tear, just as the fabric of America does not get torn apart.”
State Police Supt. Steven O’Donnell said that on that day 10 years ago, “all gave some, but some gave all.”