Taneytown's ambitious salute to the victims and survivors of 9/11, held Sept. 11, on the 10 anniversary of the terror attacks, stretched from mid-afternoon until well after sunset with a program of speakers, musical presentations and community spirit.
The ceremonies and patriotic celebrations, planned and presented by American Legion Hesson-Snider Post 120, culminated with the Legion's dedication of a new 9/11 memorial in Taneytown Memorial Park, where the event was held.
There were tears and more than a few somber moments, yet the event also had the old-fashioned, small-town flavor of a street fair.
As the Westminster Municipal Band and other ensembles and soloists offered patriotic chestnuts such as "America" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the aroma of sizzling hot dogs wafted through the mid-September air. Here and there, children darted through the crowd of about 1,500 with hand-held whirly-gigs as moms and dads snapped pictures.
There were lots of red, white and blue and "Remember 9-11" T-shirts.
"Nearly a year ago, when we started planning this, we realized that the one thing that came out of the horridness that we all witnessed that day was the unity of the country that followed, which was unprecedented," said Richard Frazier, commander of American Legion Post 120.
"We decided we wanted to bring a little of that unity back and make this a family event — without taking away from the memories of those who lost their lives," he said.
There were certainly somber moments. U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who represents Maryland's 6th Congressional District, recalled three events forever etched in his mind: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1944, John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 … and 9/11.
He recounted how he and several staff members were driving down Interstate-270 that morning on their way to Washington, D.C., and listening to a classical radio station when they heard news of the first crash.
It wasn't long before they could see "big billows of black smoke rising above the Pentagon."
"We seemed really safe before that, didn't we?" Bartlett said wistfully. "This has cost us dearly."
Speaker Sue O'Brien Knox, a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic manager at BWI Airport, recalled how at 9:35 a.m. on that day 10 years prior, more than 5,000 commercial and private aircraft were in the skies when the first unplanned shutdown of U.S. air space in history was ordered and promptly enforced.
"By noon the sky was empty," Knox said. "For the next three days, that eerie silence was so disturbing to me. I never realized what a comfort it was, and is, for me to hear airplanes. But I learned that day."
Taneytown Town Manager Henry Heine, sitting in the bleachers with his wife, Linda, said people in Taneytown could relate to Knox's remarks.
"I don't think some people are aware of what's around us here," Heine said. "Camp David is just a few miles away. FEMA is just down the street. Up here, we know when the president is at Camp David. We can hear all the helicopters and see the fighter jets in the sky."
One of the afternoon's highlights came when a large motorcade of members from regional motorcycle clubs came rumbling slowly through the park. The Harleys, Indians and other vehicles were adorned with U.S. and Maryland flags as well as banners saluting armed forces veterans and prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Taneytown Mayor Jim McCarron said he was thrilled with the attendance.
"Oh my goodness, I never anticipated this turnout," he said. "This has been wonderful. I know the American Legion has been working a year on this. They must be feeling gratified. I know I do."