Looking Back: Memorials, march among events in Boston held to remember victims of 9/11

People gathered at the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial
The Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial. Photo by Tiffany Wang.

By Aaron Velasco
Boston University News Service

BOSTON — Memorial services and vigils across the country brought a time for reflection and mourning last week, as the nation marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Among the many events held across Massachusetts, Boston hosted a number of ceremonies, including a gathering outside the State House at Ashburton Park. Joined by families of the fallen, residents and public figures, uniformed firefighters surrounded the Fallen Firefighter Memorial, holding flags and instruments to honor the fallen.

“I know how important it is, for all those who lost someone on 9/11, that we continue to honor them, to talk about them,” Gov. Charlie Baker said, in a public address. “To keep them alive in our memories, in our stories, in our hearts.”

The memorial was also held to pay respects to the firefighters who have died since September 11, 2001, Baker said, mentioning the late Worcester firefighter Lt. Jason Menard, who died in 2019 helping two other firefighters escape from a burning home.

“These stories of terrible tragedy often have an enormously redeeming factor,” Baker said. “That redeeming factor comes with the lives that are saved, the tragedies that are avoided, and the opportunity it presents for others to make memories and share a life.” 

Menard’s name and the names of hundreds of other deceased firefighters were said aloud by various fire chiefs and leaders and added to the Ring of Honor, a circle of engraved names around the memorial statue commemorating the rescuers’ service and sacrifice. The full list of added names can be found here

Michael Papagni, president of the Worcester Firefighters Local 1009, said Saturday was a day to respect the fatal price the heroic firefighters paid, remembering the loss of life on Sept. 11, in addition to those lost since, including Menard.

Hundreds of people also marched on Seaport Boulevard outside the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial on Friday, Sept. 10, carrying lit candles for the victims of 9/11 while also paying tribute to service members who lost their lives fighting in subsequent wars.

Mary Ellen Callahan, a founding member of the vigil’s organizer, Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, recounted the horror she and her family felt in New York watching the Twin Towers fall. Her son later died serving in the Marines.  

“Tonight as we stand as a community to honor our fallen heroes, who dedicated their lives to serving us since 9/11,” Callahan said. “As the aunt of two active-duty Marines, I ask each of you to continue to acknowledge and respect those who serve.” 

Callahan later said that she felt great happiness because of the amount of communal support amongst families at the candlelight vigil, but also great fear and sadness at the loss of life in the Kabul airport and the suffering of the Afghans since the U.S. withdrawal weeks ago. 

During the vigil, the names of those who died on the battlefield or as a member of the armed forces were said aloud and a matching flag designating their branch of the military was placed on an emerald patch of grass near the memorial to carry their memory. The full list can be found here

Keavin Duffy, brother of the late Sergeant Shane P. Duffy, spoke to the mass of mourners about his immense sadness over his brother’s death.

“The world lost a great light that barely started to shine on the day that Shane was killed,” he said. “Since that day, my life has not been the same.” 

The late Sergeant Duffy was motivated to join the military after the 9/11 attacks. He did two tours of duty in Iraq, earning a gold star and purple heart before his death. He was killed in battle trying to carry a wounded soldier behind cover, Duffy said. 

“Twenty years on, we’re still adding names,” he said. “We’re still adding names to those that were killed by those terrorists on 9/11. We’re still adding names to those that have been killed due to the wars on terror that followed. What would the world be like without 9/11?”

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