Gainesville, Fla. – Bells rang out across City Hall’s courtyard, a solemn and respectful silence settling over the small crowd. First responders made up the majority, donning the badges and uniforms of police and fire rescue.
As the flags were presented, Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward took the podium to issue a memorial proclamation recognizing the victims of 9/11.
“I am reminded that the enormous majority here on the University of Florida campus this morning had not been born,” Mayor Ward said.
After a presentation of colors, various leaders delivered remarks on how that day impacted their communities.
“It’s not just a question of remembering,” Hoda Islamic Center’s Dr. Saeed Khan said. “People around the world came together, in the name of God, in His compassion.”
Rabbis, imams and pastors gathered for the moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the same time the first plane struck the first World Trade Center in New York.
Reverend Catherine Dearlove then said a prayer as a blessing for the departed. “Knowing when we speak their names, their legacy lives on,” Rev. Dearlove said, allowing her words to wash over the crowd as multiple attendees’ eyes shined in mourning.
First responders were also honored in the ceremony as a second moment of silence was taken at 9:03 a.m., when the second plane struck the second tower.
“[Being a first responder] means you’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others,” Gainesville Police Lieutenant Lisa Scott said after the ceremony.
Former Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said he remembered when no one thought the U.S. could be targeted on such a grand scale. “It’s good to pass [this story] on to our children,” Jones said, whose own children were in attendance. “My heart goes out to all the victims, the first responders, just everyone who has been impacted by this event.”
22 years later, victims of 9/11 are still being identified. While the impact of that day will never be fully known, leaders here vow it will also never be forgotten.