Amid Pandemic, Massachusetts Reflects on 19th Anniversary of Sept. 11

Commemoration services will be held virtually and streamed live from the Massachusetts State House and Boston Public Garden amid the coronavirus crisis

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Massachusetts on Friday honored the lives lost during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, with officials calling on people to reflect on the nation's resilience at a time when it is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

"For the first time in my time as governor, we aren't gathering together in the House chamber to talk about 9/11 and all that was lost that day here in Massachusetts," Gov. Charlie Baker said in his remarks Friday.

"It's no secret that Massachusetts suffered as much as anybody on /911 and time and time again, we are reminded of all those lost on that tragic day, some 19 years ago."

Victims were remembered at the Massachusetts State House Friday on the 19th anniversary of the tragedy.

Baker presided over a three-part commemoration service Friday at the State House. In a somber ceremony, Baker carried a folded American flag in a lowering ceremony before a moment of silence.

PHOTOS: Remembering 9/11 in Massachusetts

In pre-recorded videos, officials including Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, as well as family members of the victims, read aloud the names of more than 200 people with ties to Massachusetts who lost their lives.

Baker later participates in the virtual Massachusetts Fallen Firefighters Memorial Annual Ceremony at 5 p.m.

The state’s official annual commemoration to honor those who lost their lives was hosted by the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund, who said they wanted to "ensure that we maintained a dignified and meaningful remembrance of our loved ones."

Christie Coombs, of the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund, encouraged people to do a random act of kindness or something to serve their communities in memory of those who died.

The observance included a reading from Attorney General Maura Healey and remarks from House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

"Today is about gathering together to remember friends and loved ones. To see familiar faces, even on screen, and to continue to heal," DeLeo said. "Today we commemorate the courage of our firefighters, police officers. And our first responders who brushed unwaveringly into great danger. It is that heroic spirit that lives on and our doctors, nurses, medical providers and other essential workers, as we combat a pandemic."

At the Boston Public Garden on September 11, Massachusetts remembers lives that were lost 19 years ago.

The service included the presentation of the 2020 Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery, presided over by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and presented by Sweeney's daughter, Anna.

"As Americans, we gather here 19 years later to remember those lost to what can only be described as the most cowardly and evil act of terrorism. We stand today to pay our respects and honor those heroes who selflessly risked their own lives to save the lives of strangers," Polito said. "We also remember the heroic actions of one of our own Massachusetts natives Madeline Amy Sweeney, and her embodiment of true coverage and bravery in the face of extreme danger."

The honor was awarded to Chris Etre, of Grafton, who saved a teenage girl trapped in a sinking car. The car was heading down Wheeler Road in Grafton when it slid on black ice, off the roadway and into a river in December. Etre saw the accident, jumped in the water and broke a rear window to help the woman escape before the vehicle became fully submerged.

"I'm truly honored to receive such an award under the name of somebody who showed selfless action herself," Etre said. "Thank you so much."

Sweeney was an American Airlines Flight Attendant working flight 11 when the first plane was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center tower. Sweeney conveyed critical information about the five hijackers to the flight ground crew, including their descriptions, seating assignments and their actions on board as the plane approached New York City.

"Chris, your actions on that day mirror so much of my mother and her courageous act that was done on the 11th," daughter Anna Sweeney said. "And with everything going on right now, I think it's really important to highlight all the good that's been done in the community, and acts such as yourself really shed light on how good people can be."

While there was no formal wreath laying this year at the 9/11 Victims Memorial at the Boston Public Garden, as is customary, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross delivered remarks and placed a wreath there.

"Today we are here to mourn those we lost. We're also here to bring more light into the world in solidarity with one another, and a solemn remembrance of those we lost 19 years ago," Walsh said. "On September 11, 2001, our nation was consumed with darkness. We were overwhelmed with fear and sorrow. As the years went on, we learned how strong that we actually could be. We learned how precious life is. We learned how to heal. We drawn on that strength time and time again in moments of crisis."

"We are the United States of America. We are the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is where our country began. So, on this day. September 11, this is a strong reminder of who we are and where we came from," Gross said. "That we will never be separated. Absolutely nothing can defeat love and absolutely nothing can defeat the power of this country and the people in this country."

An appointment-only Day of Service Blood Drive at Big Night Live is being held Friday afternoon, sponsored jointly by the American Red Cross, Big Night Entertainment Group and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. After being forced to close in March, Boston-based Big Night Entertainment Group has transformed their brand new music venue Big Night Live, into a Red Cross blood drive donation center.

In 2009, Congress declared 9/11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law.

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