Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Solemn prayers, reflective moments
as Greater Cincinnati remembers 9-11



By Howard Wilkinson, Reid Forgrave and Anna Guido
The Cincinnati Enquirer

From early morning choruses to solemn observances at the Newport Peace Bell to the private prayers of thousands as they went out their daily routines, Greater Cincinnati paused this morning to remember those who lost their lives on this day two years ago.

PHOTO GALLERY

Greater Cincinnati remembers
In a Green Township auditorium with seating for several hundred, 49 sat quietly at 7:15 a.m. as the Oak Hills High School Varsity Singers began their Sept. 11 memorial concert on a stage illuminated by red, white and blue votive candles.

The 39-member choir of sophomores, juniors and seniors sang sacred and popular music, both thoughtful and reflective, under the direction of June Hill. The opening song - "Light a Candle'' - brought a hush to the background noise in the hall. Within 15 minutes, the audience grew by more than 20. To the left of the stage, a slide presentation showed snapshots of 9-11.

"Without memorials like this, we would probably look past it, take it for granted,'' said Kelly Collins, 17, a senior from Green Township. "This makes you think about it and doesn't let it slip into the back of your mind.''

Halfway through the 30-minute concert, English teacher Kevin Ridder stood at the podium and read a poem he wrote in the aftermath of 9-11: "Could ever a darker shadow dawn upon the land....''

The choir then sang Amazing Grace and some in the audience wiped tears from their eyes, including social studies teacher Renee Townley.

"I think it's a wonderful tribute - a great remembrance and certainly important that we take some time and reflect what's truly important,'' Townley said.

When the concert ended, the choir moved from the stage to the high school office and sang The Star-Spangled Banner as part of the morning announcements.

At the College of Mount St. Joseph in Delhi Township, more than 100 students and staff, lighted candles in hand, gathered this morning in the school's quadrangle in front of a statue of Joseph with his arm around a young Jesus.

After recalling the hours and days following the attacks, when victims' families flooded the streets of New York in search of their loved ones, the crowd walked into Mater Dei Chapel for a memorial service just before 8:46 a.m. Tower bells tolled.

"We extinguish our candles to remember the loss of life" - with a whoosh, everyone blew out their candles - "but we continue our prayer in the knowledge of a loving God who walks with us," a speaker said as she stood before a crucifix.

Morning light spilled in from tall columns of stained glass windows as bells continued to ring. A senior at the college, Erin Johns, read a message of healing and hope from the Gospel of John - "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" - then Sister Monica Gundler spoke to the solemn students and faculty.

"We pray you, Lord, might turn the hearts of those who are thinking about turning to violence," Gundler, the director of campus ministry, said. "Let them see your love."

After she spoke, students prayed. A passenger jet flew over the small college campus on its way to Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, engulfing the silence of the chapel.

Nobody seemed to notice the airplane - the campus is in the flight path, and it's a noise they're used to hearing. But the memories of airplanes smashing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon could not be avoided.

Students said even today the terrorist attacks impact their everyday lives.

Johns said she has three friends with birthdays on Sept. 11. They don't celebrate on their birthdays any more.

Another student said the events changed the way she looks at life.

"Sept. 11 taught me life can change in the flash of an eye," said Sarah Seitz, 20, a junior at the college. "So I just try to be with my loved ones as much as I possibly can."

The memorial service was solemn, respectful, but nobody cried.

At 9:50 a.m. today - the precise moment when, two years, ago the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed and America changed for ever - the Newport Peace Bell's deep tones reverberated across the parking next door, where about 300 people gathered to remember the 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives when the World Trade Center fell.

Firefighters from dozens of Northern Kentucky departments stood at attention in their dress uniforms as the bell peeled out the in the "5-5-5'' pattern that is the fire fighting profession's version of the 21-gun salute, a tribute to fallen brothers.

"I'm here because we lost a lot of good people that day and we ought to remember them,'' said Larry Rininger of Newport, wearing the hat that marks him as commander of Newport's Lawler-Hanlon Post 5662 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Nearby, Cindy Cox of Erlanger, a teacher at the Center for Employment Training in Newport, organized a group of about two dozen of her medical technician students to fan out among the crowd and pass out posters of the Northern Kentucky Firefighters Memorial statue, which stands next to the Peace Bell. They also handed out programs for the hour-long ceremony, where all of the names of the New York City firefighters lost that day two years ago were read aloud.

"Ever since that day, I've felt like I needed to reach out and do things for my community,'' Cox said, as she handed off another box of posters to one of her students.

"I especially want to show my support for these firefighters,'' Cox said. "Anything I do as a volunteer pales in comparison to what these guys do every day when they go to work. 9-11 taught us that.''

Email hwilkinson@enquirer.com, rforgrave@enquirer.com and annag376@aol.com

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