Champaign County mourns lives lost on 20-year anniversary of 9/11

Emergency personnel host motorcade tour through county, hoping future generations will “never forget”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Champaign County emergency personnel toured the county on Saturday in recognition of the more than 400 public safety workers who died during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb told the News-Sun that this motorcade is the first of its kind in memory of the attacks. Ortlieb said that when public safety workers in the county were looking ahead to planning local observance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, he and others realized that many public safety personnel workers in Champaign County may have not been at an age to remember the 9/11 attacks themselves.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“We wanted to show them that this is a day we should never forget, that it’s important to remember,” Ortlieb said. “Sort of a way to pay it forward to the next generation.”

The procession featured 18 public safety vehicles from agencies throughout the county, and the vehicles stopped at each agency’s headquarters: Urbana Fire and Police Divisions, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Christiansburg Fire, Johnson-Saint Paris Fire, Saint Paris Police, Rosewood Fire, West Liberty Salem Fire and Police, North Lewisburg Fire and Police and Mechanicsburg Fire and Police all drove in the memorial motorcade.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Each stop included a 40-second moment of silence and the final stop included a 52-second moment of silence, totaling 412: the number of public safety workers who were killed on 9/11.

Emergency personnel also stopped at Freedom Grove in Urbana, where they and community members gathered for a remembrance ceremony, which ran alongside the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Run 5K Walk/Run for Peace.

Members of each agency, as well as the VFW Post 5451, lined up at the Grove for the remembrance ceremony.

The Champaign County Bicentennial Bell at the Freedom Grove rang at certain times to coincide with key times during the day 20 years ago, with a moment of silence in honor of lives lost following.

“Let’s remember all those we have lost,” said Urbana Mayor Bill Bean. “All of our sons, daughters, fathers.”

A bell chimed at the park at 8:46 a.m., the same time that on Sept. 11, 2001, the American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

At 9:03 a.m., another plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the south tower.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The second toll of the bell that reverberated through the park on Saturday held a little more significance for those in attendance of the memorial ceremony and following 5K. Alicia Titus was a Champaign County native who was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175. Her parents, Bev and John Titus, host a 5K in her honor.

“We’re all here for the same reason, to honor lives lost,” John Titus told the crowd.

Terry Howell of the Urbana Rotary Club also spoke during the memorial event, pointing to the event’s setting as a tangible reminder of sacrifice.

“This is our cherished spot,” he said. “Hopefully we can use this to remind future generations of the sacrifices made by many.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

American flags, set up by the Urbana Lions Club, filled the park as runners, walkers, and even strollers made their way along the path, some stopping to take in the scene and look over memorial plaques.

Dick Myers, who served on the Urbana’s fire department for 28 years and has called Champaign County home for 81 years, told the News-Sun that he has attended every 9/11 memorial ceremony, finding it important to remember the day and mourn those who passed.

“We lost a lot of people,” he said. “Really, it’s about showing respect.”

Champaign County’s emergency personnel were also expected to raise a flag at the Champaign County Balloon Festival at Grimes Field Airport in Urbana following the motorcade, with the flag raising slated for 5:30 p.m.

By the Numbers:

2,977 — People killed on Sept. 11, 2001

6,000 — Approximate number of people injured

4 — Planes that were hijacked

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