CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In one place, bells tolled and candles flickered. In another, voices carried. In another, children’s laughter could be heard over speeches from dignitaries at podiums.
All of them were honoring those who died on September 11, 2001.
After the Memorial Stair Climb by hundreds of firefighters, police officers, and EMTs at the Duke Energy building in uptown Charlotte; after the Flags of Remembrance ceremony at the Palmer Building on Monroe Road; after the memorial service in Freedom Park – people in the Charlotte area continued to come together to remember the terrible events of ten years ago in different ways.
Hands On Charlotte brought laughter to Lincoln Heights as it opened a new playground in an area that had been declining for decades. U.S. Senator Kay Hagan joined other elected officials to unveil the playground’s sign, while neighborhood children didn’t wait for the “official” opening before trying out the new toys.
“This is what we've been waiting for,” said Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Association President Thelma Byers-Bailey. "We are busting at the seams with pride, our chests are stuck out. This is what we are waiting on."
Later Sunday, the strains of a bagpipe playing “God Bless America” could be heard at Friendship Memorial Baptist Church on Beatties Ford Road. Choir members from more than a dozen Charlotte-area churches joined their voices for a memorial program composed after 9/11.
The interfaith service included prayers from Baptists, Jews, Muslims, and others associated with Mecklenburg Ministries.
“We need to work together to say faith is a powerful force for good,” said Dr. Maria Hanlin, the group’s executive director. “I think it empowers us to be a better people.”
Students at Winthrop University were still in grade school on September 11th. Samantha Smigel remembers a teacher running into the classroom.
“And she turned on the TV and said you have to see this!” Smigel recalls. A few minutes later, her principal came in and turned the TV off.
She had no idea about the importance of the events unfolding that day, but later learned her brother was supposed to be on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. He missed his first flight and ended up in Canada.
Tim Kroboth was 12 on 9-11. He, too, didn’t quite understand what had happened.
“As a 12-year-old, it was really hard to fathom just what that meant,” remember Kroboth. “Since I was a kid, America had always seemed invincible.” On 9-11, he said, that changed.
Now, Smigel is vice-president of the Winthrop College Democrats, and Kroboth is president of the College Republicans – but both groups came up with the idea for a memorial service at the same time. And both wanted to light candles with each other to show their unity.
“We want to come together and go forward as a nation, regardless of our backgrounds or what we think,” said Kroboth.
It was a common thread throughout all of Sunday’s events – as most agreed the anniversary was a good time to think about the next ten years, even more than its last.