OLEAN, NY – On a warm, sunny summer evening, members of the community gathered at the Olean American Legion to remember those who were killed in the 9/11 terror attacks.
The ceremony began just after 6 p.m. with a prayer by the Rev. Ross Chamberland of St. Bonaventure University, followed by speeches from Mayor William J. Aiello, Assemblyman Joe Giglio and Olean American Legion Commander Jim Farmer.
Aiello, a retired police officer, reflected on the years that have passed since that fateful September day in 2001.
“Life in America changed for all of us 18 years ago," the mayor said. "A new generation is entering adulthood, a generation whose childhood was marked by the events of 9/11. They may have not been old enough to remember those towers falling, but we must never forget what happened on that day. We must never forget that our first responders reacted swiftly and fearlessly to the terrorist attacks. God Bless Olean. God Bless America,” the mayor said.
Giglio, a former member of the sheriff's departments of Cattaraugus and Erie counties, still feels personally affected by the events of 9/11.
“Why am I onstage to speak?" Giglio, who represents the 148th Assembly District, asked. "I am just an elected official. My God what courage from those first responders on that day! I have a speech written down, but i’m not going to use it.”
Giglio continued, “How personal this day is to us? It is the love that we have for one another that inspires people to run into burning buildings to help others. It is not the training that sent those men into the buildings that day. It’s the heart.”
The speeches were followed by a flag raising from Navy veteran Conrad Tincher and Army veteran William Hilliard. And then, Olean Fire Chief Robert Bell and Olean Police Chief Jeff Rowley placed a wreath in memory of those lost.
The ceremony was concluded with a firing squad, led by Sgt. Robert Redmond, an Army veteran, and the playing of "Taps" by Jim Tabash.
Farmer, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, summed up what the ceremony was truly about.
“Veterans already have two days of remembrance, Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” Farmer said. “This is what today is for, to remember those who ran into those burning buildings. Today is a day to say to your first responders, thank you for your service.”
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