Provo city remembers heroism, loss of 9/11
A cluster of blue and red balloons whirled upward into a canopy of storm clouds Sunday evening. As crowds of onlookers watched the balloons fade northward, bagpipers from Payson High School played "Amazing Grace" into the blustering wind, drowning out thunder claps and a blaring train horn.
The moment concluded Provo's commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, which took place outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 255 S. 700 East. Only minutes earlier, Provo Mayor John Curtis -- who emceed the event -- recalled his own experiences on 9/11. He told the standing-room-only crowd that he was flying to Salt Lake City from the East Coast on that day 10 years ago, and during the flight the pilot mentioned that a small plane had crashed in New York City. It was an odd announcement, Curtis recalled thinking, but when his plan landed and he discovered what really happened he began to understand.
"I walked out into the terminal and I immediately knew that our lives would never be the same," he said.
That sentiment was expressed over and over at Sunday's commemoration. After a brief welcome by Curtis at 5 p.m., the event began with a prayer, flag ceremony and pledge of allegiance. Then the roughly 100 attendees were shown a video featuring news footage depicting the attacks on the World Trade Center. The video featured Provo Municipal Council member Laura Cabanilla and Orem police Sgt. Randy Crowther discussing their responses to the attacks. It also included comments from Dr. Richard Heaps, who traveled to New York City immediately after the attacks to help. Heaps said in the video that he can still taste the metallic flavor of the air from that day. Heaps also was given an award by the Boy Scouts of America during Sunday's event for his actions following 9/11.
Following the video, the Payson High School bagpipers performed for the first time during the event. After walking ceremoniously into the church's chapel, the piercing music filled the soaring, timbered hall.
The commemoration's keynote address was delivered by Utah Valley University president Matthew Holland. During his remarks, Holland said that the 9/11 terrorists "dealt us a tragic blow, but they did not win." Holland then called on the audience to remember what happened, as well as the heroism displayed by Americans at that time. He also recounted the story of United Airlines flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists but never reached its target because passengers onboard decided to fight back. Holland used the event to point out an example of bravery.
"They did something peculiarly American," Holland added of the passengers' decision to fight. "They took a vote."
Holland also pointed out that "no man is an island" and that, according to the New Testament, people should serve each other.
Curtis's remarks wrapped up the event, and following a benediction all attendees moved out into the church parking lot. En route, firefighters distributed balloons. Moments later, the balloons were released into the stormy air.
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