FOLLANSBEE - As area residents approached the Follansbee Middle School Field House for a program marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they observed the words "FMS Remembers" spelled out on the school's front lawn with small paper U.S. flags colored by the pupils.
The pupils didn't know when they created the display that Sunday evening's rain would lead city officials to move the program from the city's Ray Stoaks Plaza and indoors.
But it was a sign of what was to come, as many youth joined adults of all ages in reflecting on the tragic losses and the unflinching heroism of that day.
PATRIOTIC SONGS — Children with the Weirton Christian Center sang patriotic songs, including a rendition of “America the Beautiful” for which they accompanied with sign language, during a Sept. 11, 2001, remembrance program held at the Follansbee Middle School Field House Sunday. -- Warren Scott
Patriotic music was performed by children from the Weirton Christian Center, many of them Follansbee residents; and the Brooke High School Choir, led by Nick Taylor, as well as Brass Unlimited, a professional ensemble whose members include Follansbee native Lou Casini.
The Tri-State Young Marines served as color guard, while the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad presented a military salute and World War II Army veteran Bill Schwertfeger presented a wreath marking the anniversary that will be displayed soon at the plaza.
"For all of us, the events of 9-11 will live forever in our memories," said Follansbee Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano.
He noted that unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor, another highly memorable occasion in which the U.S. was attacked by a foreign enemy, images of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon "were seen instantly on television and computer screens."
Paesano said that while the terrorists hoped to weaken Americans' spirit, their actions were met instead with a renewed sense of unity and pride.
Quoting John F. Kennedy from his inaugural address, Paesano said, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Air Force Capt. Ryan Weld, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said he recently read a news article that questioned whether the U.S. lost the war on terrorism.
It pointed to the many lives lost in combat overseas and the inconveniences wrought by heightened security measures at home, but ultimately he disagreed with the story, said Weld.
Reports that officials had serious concerns another terrorist attack could occur Sunday didn't sway the thousands who turned out for observances held in New York City and Washington, he noted.
And the attacks of 2001 haven't changed Americans' steadfast resolve to preserve the values for which their nation stands, Weld added.
He quoted George W. Bush, who said of efforts against the Taliban, "We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail."
Mayor David Velegol Jr. and Paesano recognized Weld for his military service in Libya, Europe and Afghanistan, where he was involved in reconstruction efforts aimed at strengthening the nation's government against terrorist forces.
Velegol also read the names of many local men and women serving in the military and recognized local police, firefighters and ambulance personnel for risks taken and sacrifices made to serve their community.
The Rev. Dan Cooper, pastor of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ, noted "an awesome memorial" has been built where rubble once sat.
"It reminds us we can be knocked down but we won't stay down," he said.
Reflections and prayers also were offered by the Rev. Pete Giannamore of St. Anthony Catholic Church, the Rev. Penny Calmbacher of Follansbee United Methodist Church; the Rev. Joe Cuomo of Follansbee Christian Assembly; and Robert Montes of Olde St. John's Episcopal Church.
The clergy and church leaders asked God for guidance and support for those affected by the attacks and offered thanks for those who protect Americans through service in the military or police, fire and ambulance departments.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)