HAMMOND — Jordan Schillace, whose father, Shawn Schillace, and grandfather, Ronnie Schillace, work for the Hammond Fire Department, was only a child when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred, but the Hammond High School student still remembers.
“Whenever the two Twin Towers went down, it was mostly first responders that went in (to help) first,” Schillace said.
As a student in Hammond High School’s first-responder class, it was important for Schillace to remember the efforts of hundreds of New York Fire Department firefighters who put thoughts of their own safety aside and rushed into the World Trade Center’s burning Twin Towers.
More than 340 city firefighters never returned that day.
Schillace and other students, along with members of the community gave their respects to those who lost their lives on that fateful day, and to the area firefighters, police officers, first responders and military personal who stand ready to serve everyday during the Sept. 11 Memorial Ceremony held Friday at Remiers Field in Hammond.
For Schillace, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, don’t hinder his desire to one day become a firefighter.
“It’s a way I can give back to the community, and it runs in the family,” he said.
As the program centered on remembering, guest speakers, including Mayor Mayson Foster, Fire Chief Paul Collura, Police Chief Roddy Devall, Acadian Ambulance representative Lewis Taylor, Parish President Gordon Burgess, Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards and others, had one common message in mind: Never forget what those who have gone before us have done to provide each American with freedom.
“Today, we stand here as a more united union,” Foster said. “We refuse to give in to those who try to take away our freedom.”
“We’re gathered here together to celebrate the lives and heroic efforts of those who died 10 years ago,” Collura said.
“If it hadn’t been for these folks, we wouldn’t have the freedom we have today,” Burgess said about the U.S. military. “We thank God that we do live in the country we call America.”
Connie Stein, who works for Child Appointed Special Advocates in Hammond, came to Friday’s event “to support our local community and their efforts in keeping us safe.”
“It (Sept. 11) just had such an impact on U.S. citizens all over this country, not just in New York,” Stein said. “It changed life and the way we live.”
At different intervals throughout the program, moments of silence were sprinkled in to remember the exact time the towers and Pentagon were hit as well as when Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania. And finally, a moment of silence was held for when the towers collapsed.
In addition to the moments of remembrance, members of the Hammond Fire Department Honor Guard and the Hammond Police Department Honor Guard laid a wreath in front of the crowd, symbolizing those who gave their lives that day.
Following a fire siren from the Hammond Central Fire Station, Reggie Sanders played taps.
“It’s important that we don’t forget,” Schillace said.
After the program, those in attendance were able to view a piece of the World Trade Center and visit the Spirit of Louisiana, a fire truck that was given to New York City firefighters following Sept. 11. New York firefighters returned the fire truck to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. According to officials at the memorial service, the Spirit of Louisiana is now here to stay.