After helping scores of police officers and firefighters search for survivors following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Police Chief Robert Merner in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, remembers the sense of unity and hypervigilance that had taken hold in New York City and across the country.
Sixteen years later, Merner wants to ensure a new generation remembers those events and the important lessons that emerged from the attack that left more than 2,700 people dead when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Many more died when hijackers crashed planes in Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania.
Merner, a 29-year Boston police veteran who took over the crime scene of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and helped capture bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will speak at a 9/11 memorial event Monday in front of the Portsmouth police station.
It's one of many ways cities across New England plan to commemorate the 16th anniversary of 9/11, including moments of silence and a stair climb to honor the hundreds of firefighters who died that day.
The event in New Hampshire honors "the memory of the fallen heroes," including pilot Tom McGuinness, a Portsmouth resident who was flying American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane flown into one of the two towers. The service begins at 8:46 a.m., the time when the plane hit.
"I think it's important for every single community in the United States to take the time to reflect and look back at what happened," Merner said. "The flip side is to look at the strength and resilience of our country and our people."
At the Cathedral of the Pines in New Hampshire, volunteers including actress Betsy Palmer and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen will read aloud the names of the people who died at the towers, including 10 from New Hampshire. Volunteers also will read the names of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and Orlando nightclub massacre.
People in Manchester, New Hampshire, will climb the equivalent of 110 stories at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium to honor the 343 firefighters who died in the attack.
"From our generation, this was the landmark event where we watched all this unfold on TV. The folks who graduate from high school and are becoming firefighters now, they didn't experience that," said Lenwood Brown, a Merrimack firefighter who is organizing Never Forget NH 9/11 StairClimb. "It's certainly an opportunity to remember those folks who died and start a conversation to pass on what happened, what the situation was and those memories."
In Maine, the Freeport Flag Ladies plan to wave the Stars and Stripes on Main Street, as they've done once every week since the attacks.
And in Portland, where two hijackers started their day before joining three others in flying American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower, the fire and police departments are hosting a wreath-laying ceremony at Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade.
At Vermont's Norwich University, the nation's oldest private military college, the U.S. flag will be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset. Beginning Sunday night, students will place 3,000 small U.S. flags to honor those who died on 9/11, including two alumni who died in the World Trade Center. Seniors in the Corps of Cadets will march vigil tours on the Northfield campus, and there will be a remembrance ceremony Monday night.
The Vermont Department of Labor switched its annual military veteran job fair to Monday to coincide with the anniversary. The event usually is held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
"September 11th is a very important day for all Americans, and it is also the day that led to the start of about 90 percent of the Vermont Guard becoming veterans," said Lloyd Goodrow, a retired Vermont Air National Guard officer.
Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont, contributed to this report.
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