JEFFERSONVILLE — As everyday life bustled nearby, a massive American flag draped between the extended ladders of two vintage fire trucks served as a stark reminder of a day that is seared into our national conscience.
Those who spoke at a memorial service Sunday at Big Four Station park in Jeffersonville honoring all lives lost on 9/11 beseeched attendees to never forget, as 18 years have passed since those two planes speared the World Trade Center, sparking a chain of events that changed the course of our nation's history.
"Before 9/11 becomes just another day in the future," said New Albany Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Bowyer, "remember and teach the events of this day to the younger generations, so that all those people did not die in vain."
Sunday's service included remarks from speakers, a flag ceremony, prayer, a period of silence, and a unity walk on the Big Four Bridge at the end of the ceremony.
When the carnage was over, 2,997 people died on 9/11, including 343 New York City firefighters — a brotherhood that was recognized Sunday with the attendance of several Jeffersonville firefighters, displays honoring fallen heroes, and hulking firetrucks standing guard at the park.
All of it served as a backdrop to recall the terror of 9/11, and to recognize those who put their lives on the line every day for the safety of the community.
"Perhaps with you, as with me, even at this hour, even with all of the media coverage that we have heard and we have seen, even with all the time that has passed, even for those of you that have been to Ground Zero, we continue to struggle with the reality and the horror of it all," said Dick Bowyer, Matt Bowyer's father. "Eighteen years removed from those tragic events of WTC I dare say that in each firefighter present this day as we ponder those events, as we contemplate the loss of the fire service brotherhood, that wintry cold of the soul remains.
"This afternoon for those who care to remember we will honor and mourn those of our countrymen who died in those senseless, cowardly attacks of war."
Matthew Millholland was just 6 years old on 9/11, but the day's events are still vivid in his memory, and would later inspire him to follow a career as a volunteer firefighter.
"It is important to do this every year so we don't forget what those guys did that day," said Millholland, 24, New Albany. "They were just doing their jobs, and sadly they lost their lives for that."
Alisha Davidson, a member of the Southern Indiana Jeep Militia, which was a part of Sunday's ceremony, felt it was her duty to "honor our heroes."
"It's really important to show them our support," said Davidson, 32, Jeffersonville.
As for 9/11, "a lot of people were just doing their job," Davidson said. "It didn't just affect New York, it crushed the entire nation."
Eighteen years later, while memories may have begun to fade, the impact of 9/11 is crystallized in history — especially among those who suit up every day ready to answer the call to be a hero.
"I believe that most of us would agree that life in America, though continuing, has never been the same again," Dick Bowyer said, about the effects of 9/11. "I would tell each of you that although not God's fault or intent, sometimes the innocent suffer and sometimes life treats us harshly. There is no group of people more aware of that fact than those of brotherhood assembled here this afternoon.
"Each of you know firsthand, each of you — those of the brotherhood — know that is your job and you deal with it every day."