FOLLANSBEE - Speakers at Wednesday's service at Follansbee Park marking the 12th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, noted not only the tragic loss of lives and bravery dedication of the many emergency personnel who responded but also the spirit of unity shown by America as a whole.
"In the midst of this great tragedy, the world saw America at her best," said 1st Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Mazzone, who served as guest speaker for the service.
Mazzone reflected on the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon as they burned and the many who worked for days to recover bodies from the rubble. He noted the passengers aboard Flight 93 who acted to prevent the airliner from striking a third target though they correctly anticipated they would die in their attempt.
CEREMONY — Volunteer Nina Meca lit candles for the Rev. Dan Cooper of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ, left, and 1st Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Mazzone during the candlelight vigil that followed a 9/11 memorial service at Follansbee Park on Wednesday. Behind them are Mayor David Velegol Jr. and the Rev. Joe Cuomo of the Christian Assembly of Follansbee. -- Warren Scott
The judge said while U.S. officials sought justice for the many innocent people who were killed, "America never retaliated for 9/11 the way it could have. It could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it did not is a show of her strength."
Mazzone said the bravery and unity displayed in the wake of the attacks was an echo of that shown "by the Greatest Generation who, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, unselfishly risked their young lives to defend our country and freedom throughout the world."
He said with the Great Depression not far behind it, the U.S. wasn't considered a military superpower at the time. But many young Americans enlisted, training initially with dummy rifles made of wood, and factories were quickly retooled to support the war effort.
Mazzone said such spirit laid the foundation for the patriotism displayed following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
He said the events of 1941 and 2001 demonstrate that Americans' freedoms are very fragile and must be defended.
Mazzone said the following words of John F. Kennedy remain relevant today: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Before delivering the opening prayer, the Rev. Dan Cooper of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ said on 9/11, Americans "learned evil is real, hate is destructive and buildings can collapse but also that bravery is everywhere and there is strength in unity."
The Rev. Joe Cuomo, pastor of the Christian Assembly of Follansbee, noted the advice of the Biblical prophet Micah, who said, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
He noted John Winthrop, a Puritan who was among founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, described America as "a shining city on a hill."
Cuomo said despite all that America has endured, it can continue to be that.
Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano, who served as master of ceremonies, said Americans have a duty to remember the attacks of 9/11 as well as the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in which a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
Paesano read "One," a poem by Cheryl Sawyer, a professor at the University of Houston- Clear Lake, that states differences in race, religion and other personal traits were erased in the face of the tragedies of 9/11.
He also expressed thanks to past and present military personnel for defending their country and local first responders for often risking their lives to aid others and ensure public safety. Following that remark, local firefighters, ambulance personnel, City Police and Brooke County sheriff's deputies received a standing ovation.
During the service wreaths were placed at the park's Veterans Memorial Fountain by City Police Chief John Schwertfeger and his father Bill, a World War II veteran; and at a monument to Vietnam War veteran Joey Perito, who was killed by a land mine, by Vietnam War veteran Rich Puskarich and his wife, Debbie, who is executive director of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce.
Also participating in the service were Mayor David Velegol Jr., the Tri-State Young Marines, Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, vocalist Brent Kimball, Nina Meca and Carmel Esposito of the 20th Century Woman's Club.