Smyrna’s 9/11 service strikes tones both somber and hopeful

Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran

SMYRNA — On Sunday evening, the street in front of Smyrna’s Citizens’ Hose Company was filled with uniformed firefighters, candle-holding well-wishers and the sonorous sound of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.

For the 15th consecutive year, the Citizens’ Hose Company and the Smyrna Clayton Ministerial Association hosted their annual 9/11 remembrance service. Commerce Street was closed off from Union Street to Delaware Street to accommodate the large crowd that turned out.

Firefighters and trucks from Clayton, Smyrna, Cheswold, Townsend, Leipsic and Little Creek along with various other local first responders, stood at attention down Commerce Street for the presentation. Also in attendance were Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten and several other state representatives and public servants.

Addressing the service, guest speaker Jimmy Hoppa, WBOC news anchor and chaplain for the Laurel Fire Department, noted that although many people remember the event vividly, for many high school freshmen, 9/11 is a topic discussed as history. He went on to ring an optimistic note in an otherwise somber remembrance — asking what positive outcomes resulted from the tragedy.

Mr. Hoppa related the story of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who was getting off work as the first plane hit. Siller turned around only to find that the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel was closed, so he put on his gear and ran the mile and a half to Manhattan. However, he was killed moments after arriving as the second tower fell.

After dogged persistence, Siller’s family convinced the city to agree to shut down the tunnel once per year for, what they call, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run. The run which retraces his steps that day and the attached foundation has since raised $70 million for various charities.

Speaking directly to assembled first responders, he devoted special attention to the sacrifice inherent in their line of work.

“Nearly 3,000 lives were taken that day, but over 400 of those were given,” said Mr. Hoppa. “They were offered. They were not robbed of life that day because they had already committed to that sacrifice, just as you have. Every job done is a self-portrait of the one who did it. Sign yours with excellence.”

Rev. Dr. John Riley, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Smyrna, who has acted as master of ceremonies for the service since the night of the tragedy in 2001, offered his thoughts and prayers as well.

“As the events of that day grow more distant in time, they still remain vivid in our memories and mark, for us, in our national history and experience, a defining shift in consciousness,” said Mr. Riley. “We need to do everything in our power to remember the fallen.”

Honoring tradition, Mr. Riley also read the names of the 11 Delaware citizens killed in the 9/11 attack — among them, an equity trader, a flight attendant aboard United Flight 175, a New York City fire fighter and an U.S. Navy Aerographer’s mate second class stationed at the Pentagon.

For a community that relies heavily on its volunteer staff of first responders, the memorial served as both a poignant memorial to the lives lost on 9/11 and as a reminder to respect the sacrifice emergency personnel are prepared to make at a moment’s notice.

For more information on future events or volunteering opportunities, call First Presbyterian Church of Smyrna, (302) 653-8000.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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