On the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attack against the United States, Madison residents gathered at the town green and at the North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. to honor those who perished that day.
At the North Madison Volunteer Fire Co., firefighters dedicated a memorial plaque that included piece of twisted steel recovered from Ground Zero. North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. President Ed Drew, North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Don MacMillan, and Father Joseph DeCosta of St. Lawrence parish in Killingworth spoke at the ceremony, attended by company's volunteer firefighters and emergency responders.
The memorial plaque was set up in front of the room, flanked on one side by an old blackened fire helmet that the company uses to cast ballots during elections, and Drew's and MacMillan's hats on the other side to represent the rank and file, Drew said.
"We simply cannot forget"
"We have to move on, but we simply cannot forget," Drew said, adding that it will always be important to honor the civilians, first responders, police, EMS personnel, firefighters and others who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. In all, 2,753 people died, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, and 23 NYPD police officers.
MacMillan then approached the podium, and talked about the impact of the horrific event, and its aftermath, on those who died and those who survived, including those who went to war. He talked about how he is a changed person and feels he is still recovering.
He urged his fellow firefighters and emergency responders to focus on the kinship and brotherhood they shared. "Cherish each moment," he said. "Be thankful that we, unlike our fallen comrades, can carry on with the traditions of our profession."
"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement"
MacMillan then read a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the mother of five sons who died fighting in the Civil War.
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
The plaque was obtained with the help of Honeywell Corp., and , among others, said MacMillan. Honeywell Corp. "has been very supportive of fire services in general," MacMillan said.
More than 100 attend Service of Remembrance on steps of Memorial Town Hall
Outside the steps of Memorial Town Hall in the south end of Madison earlier that evening, the family of Dianne Bullis-Snyder, who died on 9/11, gathered with town officials, members of both fire companies, members of the police department, and about 100 residents at a Service of Remembrance.
The ceremony was a tribute to Bullis-Snyder, Anthony Demas, Peter Gelinas, and Robert Peraza, who either were residents or had ties to the town. And it recognized community volunteers who, as an act of remembrance, engaged in community volunteer efforts including a food drive and a downtown clean up.
Arthur H. Criddle welcomed those who attended and his wife, The Rev. Dr. Linda Smith-Criddle, who provided aid in the aftermath of 9/11 in New York City, gave the invocation, along with a reflection and blessing at the end of the ceremony.
"The happy married mother of two children"
Griswold Post #79 American Legion did the presentation of colors, and members of the Daniel Hand High School Excel Club led the crowd as they sang America the Beautiful. Members of Boy Scout Troops 491 and 490 also participated in the service, as they have in past years, along with their leadership. The scouts stood, center stage and shoulder-to-shoulder with the uniformed Madison police officers. They also handed out 9/11 pins and small United States flags to attendees.
Dianne Bullis-Snyder's mother, Marilyn Bullis of Madison, CT, attended the ceremony with Dianne's aunt, Ana Bjornberg of Sonoma, CA, and Dianne's sister, Elizabeth Bullis-Wiese of Fairfield, CT. Also attending were Brad Bullis, Dianne's brother; Nancy Bullis, Dianne's sister-in-law; Dianne "Addy" Bullis, Dianne's niece who was named after her; John Bullis, Dianne's brother; and Jill Bullis, Dianne's sister-in-law who used to work with Dianne as a flight attendant.
Marilyn Bullis spoke at the ceremony and said she remembered Dianne as "the happy married mother of two children."
"Say it today"
She said her daughter was upbeat, cheerful person, but that she was also given to reflection. Shortly before she died, she wrote a poem. "Live life to the fullest, no one knows what will come tomorrow," the poem read. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel ... keep trying ... God is always there to help." The poem also encouraged others, if they loved someone, to "say it today."
The poem was tacked up on a refrigerator, then fell off and was discovered two months later, after she died, Marilyn Bullis said.
Bullis spoke of other incidents, many of which seemed like a sign from her daughter after she died. Many of them are recounted in a book called Messages, Signs, Visits, And Premonitions From Loved Ones Lost on 9/11 by Bonnie McEneaney.
Family thanks Madison for the memorial, and memorial service
Ana Bjornberg said, before the ceremony started, that the family wanted to thank the people of Madison for creating a memorial to her niece and for the memorial ceremony, which was organized with the help of volunteers, including volunteer coordinator Pam McKinnon, who also attended the ceremony with family members.
Bjornberg said it was comforting for family members, when they come from out of state, to visit the memorial and know that Dianne and the others who died are not forgotten.
Elizabeth Bullis-Wiese and Marilyn Bullis agreed, saying they also were thankful for Norman C. “Dutch” Heilman, who was instrumental in making sure the memorial was created and has since passed away.
"I say a little prayer for him every night"
"I say a little prayer for him every night," Marilyn Bullis said.
Organizations and individuals who contributed to the community as part of the remembrance include The First Congregational Church, the Madison Exchange Club, The Madison Lions Club, the Madison Rotary Interact Club, the town of Madison, Madison Stop & Shop, and Robert's Food Center.
In addition, Vista Vocational Services is organizing a clean up drive of the downtown as part of the community service being done as part of the memorial.