PLATTSBURGH — Twelve years ago Wednesday, Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling waited in agony for news about a childhood friend who was working at the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers fell to terrorists.
“I remember the awful feeling of waiting to find out how she was,” she said.
Thankfully, Tuling eventually learned that her friend had survived the horrific attacks, but Sept. 11 will never again pass by unnoticed by the Temple Beth Israel rabbi.
“I think it’s important to remember the day,” she said, adding that she calls her friend every year on Sept. 11.
Since coming to Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh two years ago, Tuling has also led a prayer at SUNY Plattsburgh’s annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.
While last year’s prayer was in honor of those who survived the tragedy, she said, this year, she prayed for those who perished.
FLOOD OF FLAGS
Also speaking by Hawkins Pond was Associate Professor and Chair of History at SUNY Plattsburgh Dr. Wendy Gordon, who talked about the metaphorical line that will forever separate the way the world was before Sept. 11, 2001, and the way it has been since.
“Awareness about ‘now’ is colored by our memories of ‘then,’ and I can’t think about September 11, (2001) without thinking about July 4, (2001),” she told the crowd gathered there.
Gordon described how, before Independence Day that year, Old Navy began selling red T-shirts bearing the American flag and the inscription, “2001”; she purchased one for her young son to wear to Plattsburgh’s Fourth of July parade.
“When we got downtown for the parade, it seemed like everyone in town was wearing the same shirt — just this flood of red and flags all over the streets,” she said.
Gordon, at times tearfully, noted how she loves Plattsburgh’s festivals with their wholesome, small-town activities and the crowds they draw.
“Historians will look back and see this haze of impending doom hanging over the summer, tainting the whole thing with ironic foreshadowing, “ she said. “But then, when we were living it, it was just perfect and innocent.”
After the attacks, however, community gatherings took on great meaning, she continued.
“And now the festivals are tainted with that haze of impending doom, the sure knowledge that you can be celebrating something as wholesome as a footrace and awful people will do horrible things to wreck it, and all most of us can do is carry on like it doesn’t matter.
“We weren’t really any safer in July than we were in September,” she said. “But we — I, at least — were innocent, like a little kid in a red shirt, and I miss that.”
Also part of the college’s ceremony were songs performed by the SUNY Plattsburgh Gospel Choir, a color guard of members of the school’s ROTC program and a moment of silence for those who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers, including alumni Robert Sutcliffe of the class of 1984 and William Erwin of the class of 1992; as well as at the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 93.
FLAG AT HALF-STAFF
At a separate event on Wednesday at the Town Offices in Chesterfield, Woodmen of the World Chapter 1016 gifted and dedicated a new flag and flagpole to the town in honor of 9/11.
“It was a very nice ceremony,” Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow told the Press-Republican.
While Chesterfield’s original two-piece flagpole was dedicated in memory of the attacks shortly after they occurred, he said, that staff broke two years ago as a result of the tropical storms that hit the area.
Though Morrow had intended to purchase another pole for the town, the Woodmen offered one they had, which is one piece and much stronger than the previous one.
And Wednesday, the supervisor noted, seemed the perfect day to dedicate it.
Doris Sullivan, a past president of the Woodmen chapter, along with other Woodman officers, also presented the town with a bronze plaque in memory of the nearly 3,000 souls who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.
Sullivan read aloud a letter from the Woodmen about the victims of the attacks, Morrow said.
And the town’s new flag was raised to full staff, then back to half staff.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org