More than 200 turn out for ceremony at Havelock's 9/11 Memorial

Abigail Russell pulled her 2-year-old frame up off the ground and onto a portion of the Havelock 9/11 Memorial dedicated to United Airlines Flight 93.

She seemed fascinated by the rough piece of sandstone that came from a hole in Shanksville, Pa., where the hijacked airliner pierced the ground, taking the lives of 40 passengers and crew on Sept. 11, 2001.

It may be years before Abigail Russell fully understands the meaning of the hallowed memorial. For a few moments Friday, the concentric circles were a playground for an innocent child to enjoy.

Russell was among more than 200 people who observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. the exact time 14 years ago that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World trade Center in New York. The group joined thousands of people around the country to recognize and remember the 2,977 victims who lost their lives when four airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists and driven into buildings in New York City and Washington, and into the ground in Pennsylvania.

Meresa Russell, Abigail’s mother, pondered what she would eventually say to her daughter to explain the attacks on America that rocked the nation and set the stage for more than a decade of war.

“I’m probably going to tell her what a tragedy it was,” said Russell, wife of Sgt. Matthew Russell, a Marine with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 at Cherry Point. “I’m originally from upstate New York, so obviously it is very close to my heart, what happened.

“I’m going to tell her about the heroes of the day, the firemen, the policemen, even the civilians inside that helped each other. I’m just going to tell her about the sacrifice and how important it is that her dad is a Marine and how much the country united in their faith in that day and that we will always try to protect her, but we can’t control everything and that the biggest thing is to have faith in God and to know that she is loved.”

At the event, children from Annunciation Catholic School circled the memorial and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

“These young people here, a lot of them were not alive, but they will learn as time goes on and as long as they teach in school,” observed Bob Emerson, of Havelock. “It gives me a hope that people will always remember that this is a great country and we were attacked cowardly because they couldn’t do it in a fighting mode and used a sneak attack.”

For Emerson, his wife Helen, and others, the most notable instance of the country being attacked on its own soil was at Pearl Harbor in 1941. That event precipitated the United States’ entry into World War II.

“We remember December 7 and we thought it would never happen again, but we let our guard down. Let’s not do it again,” said Helen Emerson. “We need to be persistent. We’re Americans and by golly Moses, we’ll stay that way.”

Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson spoke during the ceremony.

“September 11 is not just about remembering the past, but perhaps more so, about remaining attentive in the present and keeping a wary eye towards the future,” he said.

Magnusson occasionally glanced back to the rusty piece of steel salvaged from the debris of the World Trade Center and made into the centerpiece of Havelock’s memorial.

“What happened on September 11, 2001, should never happen on December 21, 2015, May 6, 2017, or any other date that so far has no significant meaning to Americans,” Magnusson said.

“We need to teach our children from generation to generation, the love of God, and to remember,” said Lois King, of Havelock.

Denise Sauer drove from New Bern to attend Friday’s ceremony in Havelock. Originally from New York, she said she was teaching in the Catskills of New York on the day of the attacks.

“It’s hard to put into words. It makes me feel humble and small,” Sauer said. “We’re proud Americans. They didn’t beat us. And, they never will.”