After the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, an unbridled surge of patriotism and pride swept the country. Invariably, those who remember the attack know exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of the tragedy.

Now, 13 years later, the memory of the event has faded for some. What was once a solidifying symbol of sacrifice, honor and patriotism is recalled by fewer and fewer people, usually just on the anniversary of the attack, but seldom thought of other than on Sept. 11.


Some organizations in the county are continuing to keep the memory of those lost alive. The town of Mount Airy lost two of its residents during the attack on the Pentagon. In honor of these two men, the town will be holding its annual Patriot Day Ceremony at 7 p.m. at Pine Grove Chapel on Main Street.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ronald J. Vauk was the watch commander in the Naval Command Center of the Pentagon that day, and Army Chief Warrant Officer William Ruth was also among the lives lost.

The ceremony will be a memorial of these two Mount Airy residents as well as a celebration of both the freedoms this country enjoys and those who actively work on to protect those freedoms, said Derek Johnson, cubmaster of Cub Scouts Pack 1191, a sponsor of the event.

"I feel it's important to recognize the day, not only to honor those affected by 9/11 but also to look to the future and ways we can celebrate our patriotism," Johnson said.

The decline in similar ceremonies and memorials isn't all that surprising, he said. Unless a tragedy has some direct link or impact on a family or local community, in today's society, national news is often generalized and forgotten.

Patriot Day's occasionally falling on a weekday can also decrease the number of events, Johnson said.

"With everyone's busy schedule these days, it's hard for people to take time away to recognize things like this," he said. "Sometimes it's hard for people to get things organized."

The lead organizer of the event, Bob Rossi, said the event has taken place since 2009 and that he was worried residents' interest in participating might taper off.

"Sometimes it does when Patriot Day falls on the weekdays, but during weekend ceremonies, attendance seems to balloon out," Rossi said.

Mayor Pat Rockinberg of Mount Airy said it is important for people to move on, but that they should never forget. The events of 9/11 continue to impact citizens, he said, and they need to teach their children about the importance of sacrifice, freedom and willingness to serve.

"That's why we continue to do this commemoration," Rockinberg said. "It's about our children and our future."

The Patriot Day Remembrance at the Westminster Senior and Community Center is another memorial event. Center Manager Erica Starr said the event begins at noon and usually lasts no more than a half-hour. The center remembers the 9/11 tragedy for the same reason we celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day, she said: American citizens should not forget or lose track of what's happened.

"[Our remembrance] gives people an opportunity to be together, to remember together," Starr said.

She said she has noticed an ingrained sentiment in seniors that is often missing in younger generations, perhaps because of seniors' experiences with past conflicts — such as the Vietnam War and World War II. This could be another explanation for the shortage of such events, Starr said.


The Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library is also holding an event called Remembering 9/11. It has partnered with Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead. Each year students travel to Ground Zero. The events of 9/11 might seem distant and unrelated to these students, but once they visit the site and meet the families of those who were killed, the attack takes on a tangible quality, said Darrell Robertson, children's services supervisor at the library.

He said many teachers and organizations might not know how to go about presenting the information.

"It is such a somber moment in our history. I'm not sure people know how to present it," Robertson said. "There are a lot of celebrations in the areas directly affected [by 9/11], but not in the outlying cities and towns. I think it's worth showcasing."

Though the number of events in Carroll County remembering 9/11 is smaller, the dedication of those involved in their planning is without question, Johnson said. Without people like them, the memory of those who lost their lives and the impact it had on the country would be in danger of being forgotten, he said.

"[These organizers] feel it's part of their civic duty to help educate the community on why it's important to remember and to make sure these type of things do not happen again," Johnson said. "We cannot take our freedom for granted."

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go:

What: Mount Airy's Patriot Day Ceremony

Where: Pine Grove Chapel, S. Main Street, Mount Airy

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11

More Information: Visit the town's website at http://www.mountairymd.org/event/patriot-day-ceremony/

What: Patriot Day Remembrance

Where: Westminster Senior and Community Center, 125 Stoner Ave., Westminster

When: Noon Thursday, Sept. 11

More Information: Contact Center Manager Erica Starr at 410-386-3850

What: Remembering 9/11

Where: Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 2265 Old Westminster Pike, Finksburg

When: 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 13

More Information: Contact the library at 410-386-4505