ARNOLD — Residents of this small St. Louis suburb along the Meramec River gathered Saturday morning outside their community center, where a piece of steel that once was part of the World Trade Center 1,000 miles away now anchors a solemn memorial to those killed in the terrorist attacks 20 years ago.
Despite its distance from New York, Arnold, like communities throughout the country, took time Saturday to remember the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when commercial jets hijacked by members of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Al Qaeda destroyed two of the most iconic skyscrapers in the nation’s largest city.
“To have it here, it’s just more personal,” Allen Flamm, whose family’s roots in the Arnold area stretch back to the 1830s, said of the memorial.
Though he has no personal connection to the tragedy, Flamm, a longtime volunteer with the Arnold Historical Society, said the artifact and monument was a “great honor” for Arnold.
“It’s a simple memorial,” he said. “But it’s just perfect.”
Unveiled a decade ago on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the landscaped flowers and stone replicas of the twin towers in the Arnold memorial are built around a piece of one of the towers, one of thousands disseminated for memorials around the country. Several were incorporated into monuments in the St. Louis area, including in Belleville, Edwardsville and O’Fallon, Mo.
About 75 people gathered for the ceremony on Saturday morning in Arnold, which featured a ceremonial flag folding and raising by honor guard members of the Arnold Police Department and Rock Community Fire Protection District. Nearly 350 New York City firefighters were killed responding to the attacks, and another 60 law enforcement officers died.
Arnold resident David Simon, who attended with his wife, Judy, has several family members who have served in area police and fire departments. He wanted to show his respect to the first responders on 9/11.
“They served, and this is a day we’ll always remember what those guys did,” he said. “We should never forget.”
Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, in a speech to the crowd, asked them to recall how the attacks led to “a nation that was more united than any time in recent history” and to “remember how our communities replaced division with unity.”
It was one of several observances around the area Saturday, including a gathering at the Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge in Florissant and a 21-mile “March to the Arch” walk through the region to the Gateway Arch downtown.
On Art Hill in Forest Park, where some 7,000 flags marked the military service members killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed the 9/11 attacks, regular parkgoers who stumbled upon the display mingled with those who came just to observe the installation. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones came through to pay her respects.
Christi Lindsey of south St. Louis County was among those who came specifically to see the the Flags of Valor display, inspired, she said, in part by the recent, chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s sudden toppling of the U.S.-backed government.
“I feel that it’s because of these thousands of servicemen,” she said, overlooking the flags from the base of the hill, “that we don’t have tens of thousands of flags to put up.”
Vic Avellino was watching the flags quietly from the western edge of Art Hill. Born in New York, he had friends and family in the city when the attacks happened and remembers most vividly the uncertainty that the day brought.
“It’s so nice to see young families here so the children will grow up remembering and marking the day,” Avellino said. “Over time, it becomes more and more like history instead of current events.”
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