Eldersville to remember 9-11

ELDERSVILLE, Pa. – The Jefferson Township Historical Society will observe the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a service at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Jefferson Township Veterans Memorial located at Cedar Grove and Fire roads.

The historical society became involved with the annual memorial several years ago, lending logistics and helping hands to coordinator Diane Huggins, who continues to plan and lead the memorial service.

“It was a terrible, terrible thing,” said Huggins of the terrorist attacks. “It’s something, a moment in history, where you remember where you were and what you were doing, like (President John F.) Kennedy’s assassination. So many people died, and many are still dying.”

The service originated in Huggins’ backyard as a neighborhood prayer service and – once moved to the veterans memorial and assisted by the society – has grown to regularly draw approximately 100 area residents. The memorial also includes a black granite monument in honor of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack’s victims.

“We need to somehow get back to how we felt at that time, that feeling that we were standing together as one nation,” said Huggins.

Huggins plans to tell the personal stories of three victims who died in the attacks, as she does every year, giving the national tragedy relatable faces.

“I’ve promised to do this (service) as long as I live, and, hopefully, after I’m gone, someone will take over,” said Huggins.

Emma Gragan also will be in attendance, as she has been for the past several years, to sing a medley of patriotic songs. The poems “Nation of Survivors” and “The Day My Lady Cried” will be read. The Rev. Tom Derby of Colliers Way Church of Christ and the Rev. Jim Sands of Eldersville United Methodist Church will be asked to lead those attending in the opening and closing prayers.

Huggins said she is looking for veterans’ groups and first responders from throughout the area to participate and attend the service. She hopes to find a group of veterans and first responders to raise and lower the flag to half-mast in observance of lives lost. A portion of the service will be dedicated to observing the courage and sacrifices of the first responders who died or were injured during the attacks and those who continue to deal with illness caused by toxic dust when the towers fell.

“Any fire or police departments who would like to come are welcomed,” she said. “We would be honored.”

Huggins also is seeking participation from veterans and active-duty members of the military and said military members, veterans and first responders would be recognized and honored during the service.

“We definitely want to see veterans,” she said. “They will be honored.”

A flag from the World Trade Center will be flown in honor of the victims, including Firefighter Greg Saucedo of the New York Fire Department, who was killed as a result of the attacks. The flag was donated to the Eldersville memorial service by Mark Macari, Saucedo’s cousin.

Huggins said she also plans to include a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil into the twilight service. A memorial for Connie Daniel of Wisconsin, who created the Sept. 11, 2001, memorial quilts, will be on display during the service.

Because Sept. 11. is a “Day of Service,” a collection will be taken up for the Jefferson Township Historical Society.

“Many of the victims were involved in community service,” said Huggins. “A lot of them would give their lunches to the homeless. It’s a way to remember and honor all the good work they did.”

Previous projects supported during the service included a collection for the Washington County Food Bank and soliciting prayer for missing children. Barb Zianni will speak briefly about the society, its work and the ongoing project to preserve the White Church, where the group holds its meetings.

“We’ll be taking up a collection or doing something every year,” said Huggins. “We want to keep this up in honor of those who died.”

Huggins said the memorial wouldn’t be possible without the society’s contributions, pointing out the group maintains the memorial and decorates it with dozens of full-sized American flags for the memorial service. The historical society also hosts the social following the ceremony.

“I have to thank the historical society and recognize their dedication to this,” said Huggins. “I couldn’t do this without them. They keep it going and running smoothly.”

The group will choose another local service organization to help next year, likely the Jefferson Township Volunteer Fire Department, said Huggins.

In addition to the annual memorial, Huggins has devoted herself to the task of memorializing each of the attacks’ 2,977 victims through poetry. Several bound books of her poetry are located at the Shanksville, Pa., crash site, the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center memorial.

“I’m trying to do three a day,” she said of the poems, which include details of victims’ lives submitted by their loved ones. “I’m determined to get those books filled.”

The historical society will offer refreshments at the White Church on Fire Road, across from the Jefferson Township Fire Department, immediately following the service.

The public is welcome to attend.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com.)