It was a day for solemn ceremonies Sunday. As people around the world gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of 9-11, the citizens of St. John’s, and the men and women who serve them, were no different.
In recognition of all the emergency personnel who lost their lives when the World Trade Center collapsed, a special ecumenical service was held at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.
Emergency personnel from across the province gathered in the cavernous church to pay their respects to their fallen comrades and to offer solidarity to the friends and family of those men and women.
The effects of 9-11 were far-reaching and gripped people as far away as Newfoundland and Labrador said John Stamp, an inspector with Fire Prevention in St. John’s and one of the organizers of Sunday’s parade and service.
“This was the most catastrophic event in the history of our profession. We lost 343 on that day and in addition to that were some 60 police officers lost,” said Stamp.
“To emergency services we’re basically one big family ... so we would know some of these people, we would have met them at conventions and that sort of thing,” he added.
Stamp clearly remembers where he was on 9-11, 2011.
It had been his day off, but he dropped by the fire station to see some of the guys, he said.
When he got to the station the news started coming in on T.V. and everyone huddled around to watch.
There were a lot of grim faces in that room, he said.
After he went home, Stamp said he kept watching the news on TV.
“When the first tower came down that’s when it really struck me. As soon as it did, I said to my daughter ‘we just lost hundreds of guys — I know we did,’” he said.
It took a long time for the shock of that day to dissipate for police, firefighters and other emergency personnel here, he added, so Sunday’s service was all the more poignant.
Prior to entering the church, more than 250 RCMP, RNC, firefighters, paramedics and others marched down military road.
Throughout the service, several items of uniform headgear sat on cushions in a place of honour at the head of the church. The hats and helmets served as strong reminders of why everyone was there.
Speakers during the service included Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, labour leader Lana Payne, politicians and other community leaders.
Archbishop Martin Currie gave the sermon for the service, in which he asked for peace, understanding and strength from mankind.
“We have all been changed by what we saw, heard and experienced on Sept 11. But we must remember that what we saw that day was not only violence ... we also saw superhuman courage, overwhelming compassion and acts of inspiring generosity,” said Currie.
Just before the service ended a bell ceremony was held. The Firefighter’s Prayer was recited before a large bell was rung nine times.
As the sermon ended and hundreds of men and women in uniform rose from their seats to exit the church, spontaneous applause broke out from the congregation.
For visitor Marie Hall of St. John’s it was wonderful ceremony.
“It represents the loss that they had, the people that …” she said before letting the sentence trail off.
It was also comforting, she said, her son is an RNC officer.
“Every day he goes out I worry,” she said.