WILTON, Conn. Almost as if on cue, Our Lady of Fatima's bells echoed across Wilton Center on Sunday morning, providing an ecclesiastic soundtrack to the town's 10th annual Sept. 11 memorial service.
A little more than 100 Wilton residents, emergency personnel and officials gathered at the Fire Headquarters on Danbury Road to mark the somber anniversary of the worst terror attack in U.S. history.
However, many of the speakers opted not to dwell on the tragedy of that day and instead focused on how Wilton and the entire country came together to honor those lost and to support those left behind.
"It was a bad day, but it was a good day," said former Wilton Fire Chief Bill Von Zehle. "We were united like we had never been since World War II. They didn't beat us then; they're not going to beat us now if we stay united."
The events unfolding that day less than 60 miles away shattered the cocoon in which Wilton residents had long lived. Edward Fergus Jr., Peter Fry, John Iskyan and Edward York did not return home that day. John Henwood, who grew up in town, was also killed that day. Five years later, Army Private First Class Nick Madaras, a soccer star in his days at Wilton High School, died in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.
Rather than be dragged down by the sorrow, Wilton residents offered to take a lead role in the recovery process. Off-duty firefighters packed a vehicle with supplies and drove into Manhattan to offer help. Wilton's fire station was turned into a collection spot where residents showed up with supplies needed at Ground Zero. Residents who worked as nurses and doctors went to New York City to help victims.
"We came together in thousands of ways to support each other," said Wilton Fire Chief Paul Milositz. "We were all in this together. We are all just Americans one country, one nation, one people."
For keynote speaker Bridgeport Fire Lt. Phil Reeves, that sense of unity and support from a decade ago has faded. He would like to see the country come together again without being triggered by another tragic event.
"We are forgetting our fears and acting like that was ancient history," said Reeves. "We need to remember how we felt on Sept. 12, 2001, and we need to remember we never want to feel that way again."
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