A memorial to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks was unveiled Saturday by Aberdeen city leaders who were joined by first responders from the city and Harford County emergency officials, as well as Aberdeen Proving Ground military leaders.
The memorial, which occupies a parcel within the city's Festival Park, includes a small piece of steel from the collapsed structure of the World Trade Center. Visitors are encouraged to touch the steel.
The steel is surrounded by two black pillars meant to evoke the twin towers of the WTC and etchings memorializing the names and numbers of the hijacked passenger aircraft that were flown into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, plus the names and numbers of a third plane flown into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and a fourth plane, United 93, that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers tried to take it back from the hijackers. There are also benches on either side of the memorial.
A large American flag, hoisted by two fire trucks, hung over the memorial, and the Harford County Sheriff's Office helicopter flew over the site for the unveiling.
The Aberdeen memorial is dedicated to the memory of the civilians and first responders killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Three people with Harford County ties, including an Aberdeen resident, were killed in attacks, one at each location:
Joseph Maggitti, of Abingdon, died inside the World Trade Center in New York while attending a monthly meeting at the headquarters of the insurance and investment firm in whose Baltimore office he worked.
Willie Troy, a 51-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War who was living in Aberdeen, was killed at the Pentagon, where he worked for the Army as a civilian program analyst.
Deborah Jacobs Walsh, a veteran flight attendant, was on board United Airlines Flight 93. Mrs. Walsh, the wife of former Harford County resident Patrick Walsh, had agreed to fill in at the last moment for a co-worker who was unable to make the flight.
Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett, who served as the emcee for Saturday's dedication, described it as "what I think is one of the finest 9/11 memorials in Maryland and probably in this part of the country."
Bennett is a past fire chief of Aberdeen Fire Department and wore his dress fire uniform while leading the ceremony,
The memorial is a project of the city government and the Aberdeen Heritage Trust, a nonprofit entity supported by the city and tasked with preserving pieces of Aberdeen's history.
The Heritage Trust obtained the steel from the Port Authority, which manages the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.
"I think it evokes a lot of emotion, and we were real lucky to get it, I think," Judy Hinch, a lifetime member of the fire department and a member of the Heritage Trust, said after the ceremony.
Bennett told the audience gathered under and around a tent set up in front of the memorial that the project started off small, but "we wanted to make it a little bit bigger, a little bit nicer," and create "a site that people could come see and be a part of."
The speakers for Saturday's ceremony included Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert, Harford Sheriff Jesse Bane, Brig. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the new senior commander for Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Ed Budnick, president of Aberdeen Fire Department and a past chief.
Budnick also recently retired as the APG fire chief.
"We need to remember because so many have lost so much," Trabert said.
The police chief noted "most of us know where we were that day," and recalled being in the Aberdeen firehouse surrounded by firefighters and "watching in disbelief" as the attacks unfolded on a sunny late-summer morning.
Trabert remembered the nearly 400 New York firefighters, New York Police Department officers and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey officers who lost their lives on 9/11 and the thousands of American troops killed and wounded in the Global War on Terror that followed 9/11 and continues today.
"We remember all who have given so much, and we continue to pray for those who march in harm's way," he said.
Crawford, who took command of APG about 45 days ago, was in the Pentagon when it was hit on 9/11.
He spoke of the local fire and EMS workers who rushed into the military headquarters to save the military and civilian personnel trapped inside.
Crawford told the audience he was standing before them " to tell the story of those who could no longer speak."
"I just want to say, 'Thank you to the City of Aberdeen for not forgetting,' " he said.
The general said later he was visiting the Pentagon on 9/11, and the plane crashed into the building shortly after he arrived.
"Amongst the chaos, you had many people just so many heroic actors that, in my mind, saved lives," Crawford said.
Bane said during the ceremony that the memorial "gives us the opportunity to reach out and touch an important part of our history."
The sheriff wore a baseball cap in memory of Joe Viciano, a young man who worked in the World Trade Center and died on 9/11.
Bane said he and his family connected with Mr. Viciano's family in Long Island, N.Y., after he and his wife purchased a used convertible that belonged to Mr. Viciano.
Mr. Viciano's mother traced the car to the Banes in Fallston, and they have been friends ever since. They also sold the car back to her at her request.
"We communicate often and we make it a point to connect every year on 9/11," Bane said.
Budnick noted the Aberdeen Fire Department is celebrating its 125th anniversary; he went through four of the department's core values: pride, commitment, sacrifice and tradition.
"It's not a sacrifice to engage and commit to something you absolutely love to do," Budnick said.
Following Saturday's ceremony, those who took part gathered around the memorial to take pictures and look it over.
Beverly Yost attended part of the ceremony with her great-niece, 8-year-old Keira Kelley, and they looked at the memorial and the World Trade Center steel afterward.
"You remember the two buildings where the bad people blew up, this is a piece of it," Yost told her grand-niece, who was born in 2006.
She said that even through Keira was not born when the attacks happened, she knows the story from the adults in her life.
"I just hope more families come out with their children," she said. "They can sit down and reflect on what happened that day."