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NH mourns tragedy of 9/11, honors heroes

From Correspondent Reports
September 11. 2017 9:41PM
People left flowers and said prayers at the steel 9/11 artifact in Portsmouth Monday morning. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

First responders, local officials and dignitaries hosted somber gatherings throughout New Hampshire on Monday, remembering the anguish that brought them to tears 16 years ago as well as the bravery that continues to inspire them.

Commemoration ceremonies to mark 9/11 took place at fire departments, parks, schools and other public places. Speakers described what the day meant to America while police officers and firefighters stood at attention and flags swelled on a gentle September breeze.

“What we can do is live — live in the moment because life is too short,” said Ralph Ascoli, who spoke at Hesky Park in Meredith. His sister, Debbie Mannetta, died when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, where she was working.

She and Ascoli used to summer in New Hampshire.

Dozens attended the ceremony, including Meredith firefighter John Ludwick, who struck the “four fives” on the department bell to honor 343 New York City firefighters who died that day.

“This attack was on our sons and daughters, our grandsons and granddaughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters — all of whom were just showing up for work on a typical Tuesday morning,” said Londonderry Fire Chief Darren O’Brien, who spoke at the Londonderry Central Fire Station.

The day, he said, changed the world for those first responders.

“What happened was a group of men murdered thousands of people,” said Londonderry Police Chief Bill Hart. “And they murdered those people, us, because of ideas that we held,” he said.

In Portsmouth, people gathered at the site of a 9/11 steel beam artifact, which is adjacent to City Hall flagpoles.

The city’s new police chief, Robert Merner, spoke about working at ground zero in the days after the attack. Nearly everyone — from first responders to everyday citizens — pitched in, he said.

“As I look at what’s going on in Houston, as I look at what will happen in Florida the next couple of days, not only our public safety workers, our police, our firemen, our EMTs, but it’s everyday citizens in this country who step up to the plate,” Merner said.

“There is so much more that unites us than divides us,” he said.

Also in Portsmouth was U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who was governor 16 years ago during the attacks.

She honored the firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians who sacrificed their lives, as well as the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field.

“They acted with amazing courage,” Shaheen said.

In Hudson, hundreds gathered at Benson Park, where a 23-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center was used to create a replica of the towers.

Among those killed was Hudson resident David Kovalcin, a father of toddlers who was on Flight 11 on a business trip.

“There was a number of people impacted here personally,” said Ted Luszey, Hudson selectmen chairman.

At the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, volunteers played a recording of the names of the people who died that day.

Massachusetts resident James Pelletier also mentioned the people who were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing and Orlando Night Club shooting.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who spoke in Londonderry, said Americans could highlight the bravery more often, to celebrate the heroics of those who barreled into collapsing buildings to save strangers.

That ultimate sacrifice, the governor said, is not repayable.

“As individual citizens,” Sununu said, “we can never say thank you enough.”

Union Leader Correspondents John Koziol, Chris Garofolo, Kimberley Haas and Meghan Pierce contributed to this article.

Meredith Hudson Londonderry Rindge Portsmouth Sept. 11

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