Smyrna church to conduct annual 9/11 remembrance service

Smyrna residents have gathered every year since 2001 to hold memorial services for the casualties of the 9/11 attacks. In 2014 Pipe Major Russell Johnstone and his son Bruce Johnstone performed “Amazing Grace.” (Delaware State News file photo)

Smyrna residents have gathered every year since 2001 to hold memorial services for the casualties of the 9/11 attacks. In 2014 Pipe Major Russell Johnstone and his son Bruce Johnstone performed “Amazing Grace.” (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — Since the night of Sept. 11, 2001, the First Presbyterian Church of Smyrna has been holding annual memorial services to remember the nearly 3,000 lives taken that day.

The tradition continues on Sunday.

Hosted by the Citizens’ Hose Company and the Smyrna Clayton Ministerial Association, the 7 p.m. service will include a candlelight vigil, a reading of the names of Delaware residents who died that day and appearances from various dignitaries and public servants.

The Rev. Dr. John Riley, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Smyrna, will serve as master of ceremonies for the 15th consecutive year.

Fire companies from surrounding communities also will send uniformed firemen and firetrucks to participate in the service.

“In this country, and in Delaware especially, we rely on our frontline defenders,” said Mr. Riley. “9/11 demonstrated that in a very heroic way, with so many who gave their lives trying to save others. We want to remember and honor that.”

Since Sept. 11 has been declared a National Day of Service and Remembrance, many communities in the country will hold similar ceremonies.

Mr. Riley believes the memorial service is an important responsibility the community has to its emergency responders because before 9/11 there was never a day dedicated entirely to honoring their sacrifices.

“I still remember coming out of the church after our first memorial prayer service on the night of the tragedy and watching the tanker and ladder truck pull out of the firehouse garage as it was being deployed to New York City,” Mr. Riley said.

The firehouse’s vehicles were driven to New York City and ferried to Lower Manhattan to participate in fighting the fires. Although Smyrna firefighters themselves did not participate directly in dousing the flames, Mr. Riley is proud that his small community was able to assist is some way.

“This community played a minor role of its own on that day and we want to continue to play a role by doing everything we can to remembering the fallen,” he said.

The service will begin at 7 p.m. in front of the Smyrna firehouse at 103 W. Commerce St.

Guest speaker Jimmy Hoppa, WBOC news anchor and chaplain for the Laurel Fire Department, will share his recollections and observations of the tragic day on which 343 New York firefighters and 411 emergency workers were killed.

Mr. Riley said the First State Military Academy will supply a color guard, the Rev. Rich Walton of Ewell’s-St.Paul United Methodist Church in Clayton will offer the Fireman’s Prayer and Quint Boots of the Leipsic Volunteer Fire Department will play “Original Firefighting Man” during the vigil.

Parking for the event is available on the street, behind the firehouse or in the First Presbyterian Church’s parking lot.

For more information, call First Presbyterian Church of Smyrna, (302) 653-8000.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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