State’s September 11th Commemoration Even Sadder Than Usual

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By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

BOSTON — Family members who experienced searing loss 16 years ago gathered at the Massachusetts State House on Monday for solemn ceremonies to commemorate those killed in the 9/11 attacks, and to honor courageous acts.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito reminded the audience in the House chamber of the heroism exhibited by Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, who was a flight attendant on the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center. Before the crash, Sweeney relayed critical information about the hijackers to officials on the ground.

The Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery was created by the Legislature in 2003, and this year’s award ceremony was tinged with tragedy. The recipient, Jaydon Dancy, was killed by a commuter rail train in June at the age of 11 in his hometown of Salem, less than a year after he swam out to save a kayaker in distress, Polito said.

At the age of 10 in August 2016, Jaydon rushed into the water and pulled the kayaker to shore, although the man succumbed to a medical episode, Polito said. Michelle Dancy accepted the award, saying she was honored beyond words and telling the audience that Jaydon was a “compassionate peace-loving boy.”

The four coordinated Islamist terror attacks that occurred Tuesday, September 11, 2001 ushered in new domestic security measures and armed conflict that continues today in Afghanistan. Nearly a generation has passed since the attacks when terrorists converted commercial airplanes into weapons to attack New York City and the nation’s capital.

Those born on that day would now be eligible to apply for a learner’s permit at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts, and next year they will be eligible to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces with parental consent.

Despite the passage of time there were fresh tears in the House chamber on Monday.

The annual 9/11 ceremony is “probably the most emotional” that Speaker Robert DeLeo presides over, he said. DeLeo said, “It is now one of the rites of fall. As the air begins to become crisp, I begin to think about it.”

Those in the chamber viewed a video montage of the names and photos of those killed who had Massachusetts ties, a time-capsule of smiling faces and 1990s fashion.

“What I see in those pictures is just utter joy,” Polito said. She said, “On that very day, all the joy in your life was sucked out of you.”

Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross said he remembered being “angry that day,” and struck a defiant note.

“We don’t run and hide as a nation. We don’t commit cowardly acts,” Gross said.

Consul General of Israel to New England Yehuda Yaakov was the lone foreign dignitary in the House chamber, where state Representatives Paul Tucker, Don Wong, David Nangle, David Muradian, Tom Walsh, Paul Donato, and Senator Richard Ross joined other officials and those grieving.

“I’ve attended this every year since I came four years ago,” Yaakov told the News Service. He said, “This was a cowardly act of terrorism, and I think that makes it even more something which resonates with Israelis. We have these ceremonies all the time, unfortunately. So we get the pain, we get the grief, and we get the resilience.”

While none of the fire and mayhem of 9/11 occurred in Boston, the city is linked to the attacks because the two planes that struck and destroyed the World Trade Center flew out of Logan Airport.

Earlier in the morning, officials gathered on the State House steps for a flag-lowering ceremony and moment of silence.

Governor Charlie Baker and First Lady Laura Baker walked down a path lined with red, purple, and white flowers to the flag pole on the State House lawn where the Environmental Police Color Guard raised the Stars and Stripes before lowering it to half-staff.

The moon hung in the sunny September sky as mothers, daughters, and other family members who lost loved ones on 9/11 read the names of victims from Massachusetts. After each person completed reciting names of the dead, participant Claudia Jacobs rang a bell provided by the U.S.S. Constitution, the nation’s oldest commissioned warship, nicknamed “Old Ironsides.”