Evanston residents, officials remember 9/11

Evanston firefighters, police, city council members and residents attend the 9/11 observance.

Susan Du, City Editor

Evanston police, firefighters, aldermen and residents gathered at Fireman’s Park on Tuesday morning to commemorate the 11thanniversary of 9/11.

The half-hour ceremony featured brief speeches by Fire Chief Greg Klaiber and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, as well as a prayer by fire chaplain David Jones.

Attendees said the memory of 9/11 remains fresh in their minds. Eleven years ago Tuesday, terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. A fourth plane hit the ground in rural western Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people died in total.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, Evanston Police Department chaplain and director of Northwestern’s Tannenbaum Chabad House, said the anniversary of the attacks has taken on a new meaning for him as a reminder that cross-cultural understanding is the key to peace.

“I think the bigger residual effect from where I sit as a chaplain is to figure out ways to educate people, so we could learn to understand each other,” he said, adding that he views the terrorist attacks as a tragedy derived from one culture’s ignorance and intolerance of another. “For me, 9/11 means reaching out to other faith communities and other members of our secular community to learn out to be able to live with each other.”

For others, 9/11 has come to represent a day for honoring police and firefighters.

Tisdahl called on citizens to thank local law enforcement and fire personnel in her address at the ceremony.

“The police department and the fire department in Evanston are proof that there are no ordinary people who sign up to be a policeman or a fireman,” she said. “Those are not jobs that attract the ordinary but in fact the extraordinary people. And I want you to know that the citizens of Evanston on 9/11 and throughout the year are grateful. You are examples of the very best our country has to offer.”

About a dozen Evanston residents also attended the ceremony, including retired firefighter Jerry McDermott.

McDermott, who served 31 years in Evanston, has attended the 9/11 memorial every year since 2001, when he first watched the destruction of the World Trade Center on the news in his living room.

“I thought it was a graphic or something,” he recalled. “I thought it was a movie. I didn’t think it was real. I think everybody remembers what they were doing on that day. Just this date reminds you of the tragedy, and you won’t ever forget that. It’s just the worst tragedy this country’s ever had.”