By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Twelve years ago, a nation mourned.
Yet, as Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto stepped to the podium outside the Royal Avenue Firehouse to commemorate the 12th year since the terrorist attacks which changed America Wednesday, a bright, morning sun broke through the clouds and illuminated him.
The contradiction between the somber mood of those in attendance and the warm, summer-like atmosphere radiating in Niagara Falls was striking. Gathered at the city fire department's memorial to the fallen first responders from that fateful 2001 morning and the gruesome attacks against the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., DalPorto, Mayor Paul Dyster, Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo and state Assemblyman John Ceretto gathered to recognize the sacrifices of those who rushed into the New York City twin towers as the buildings were collapsing above their heads.
"On Sept. 11, 2001, the world witnessed the worst of what mankind has to offer," DalPorto said. "But also on that day, it witnessed the best of what mankind has to offer. Firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders that ran into those towers on that day that others were running out, offered the best of what mankind has to offer.
"Although the world has never seen on such a large scale what innocent victims subjected to such acts, the reality is firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders run into that same danger every day to save lives," the police chief said, "We need to take a moment to remember the (responders) who paid the ultimate sacrifice to their community and their country that day. These acts are underscored with the courage and bravery every ... emergency responder has given every day above and beyond the call of duty."
DalPorto also recognized the 2 million Americans who have answered the call to arms and joined the fight during war time over the past 12 years, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sept. 11 was one of the bloodiest single days in American history, not only to the public but also to the tight knit firefighter community. During the immediate response in New York, 363 New York firemen and women were killed, performing what Colangelo said was the definition of courage.
"These past 12 years have shown America does not give in to fear," Colangelo said. "The rescue workers who rushed to the scene, the firefighter and police officers who charged up the stairs, these patriots defined the very nature of courage. With a just God as our guide, let us honor those who have been lost, let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope."
As the country mourns the deaths on that fateful day, the rest of the world is awaiting what the U.S. will do concerning the alleged chemical weapons attacks last month in Syria, reportedly launched by the country's president, Bashar al-Assad, against his own people as part of a multi-year civil war.
Dyster used his time at the podium to stand behind the efforts of President Barack Obama, who addressed the nation Tuesday night about his intentions for a military intervention.
Obama said diplomacy is being explored as the first choice, but that some form of air attack – no American soldiers would be put in harms way in the country, he said – would be possible if talks fall through.
Dyster said he supports the president in holding the Syrian leadership accountable if the allegations against it are true.
"I applaud the efforts of President Obama in the situation in Syria to make sure that the bright line against the use of weapons of mass destruction in this international domestic conflict is not crossed without some sort of consequence," Dyster said. "I'm very, very encouraged by diplomatic events in the recent days and we all hope are going to (lessen) the necessity for American military action. None of us who've had friends or relatives serve abroad, particularly in combat situations, never look upon the use of military force as a (threat). It should always be a last resort in American foreign policy."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the date has become known as a National Day of Service and Remembrance after Congress officially recognized it in 2009. Ceretto said the national suffering isn't gone but people working to help protect the freedoms and liberties at home are helping citizens remember the country is still the United States of America.
"The attack on our nation that day will remain etched on our minds forever," he said. "As we pay tribute on this National Day of Service and Remembrance, let us stand tall as we honor the heroism of 9/11 and never loose sight that we are the United States of America. We have exceptional people in our fire companies across this great nation, we have great police officers in this great nation and we have great people that protect our lives every day in our nation."
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.