OLEAN — The Olean High School chorus remembered the 9/11 terrorist attacks Friday on a bright, clear morning — just as it was 20 years ago on the same day.
Gathered around the September 11 Memorial Statue in front of the high school entrance, chorus members performed “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the district’s Husky mascot held the American flag.
The memorial, sponsored partially by the ARTSTART program, a local arts in education effort, was unveiled in 2011 during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
With the help of Olean High School art students, the statue was crafted by Dave Poulin of Jamestown and depicts a fireman and child holding a commemorative piece of steel from the former Twin Towers.
A plaque at the memorial states: “With this statue, we not only remember and honor the heroic first responders and the victims lost on that dark and tragic day but we also celebrate our nation’s resolve to unite and endure. That day will forever be remembered in the hearts of the people of Olean and all Americans.”
At St. Bonaventure University, about 80 people — students, faculty, administrators, ROTC program participants and visitors — gathered at 12:20 p.m. for a program at a memorial dedicated to three SBU graduates who perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City.
The Rev. Mychal Judge, class of 1957 and a Fire Department of New York chaplain; Rob Peraza, class of 1994 who also earned a graduate degree in 1996; and Amy O’Doherty, class of 2000, all died that morning 20 years ago.
Amanda Naujoks, director of the San Damiano Center, said the St. Bonaventure community prays for all the lives lost on 9/11, as well as for their families and the U.S. military personnel who were either lost or wounded in the subsequent wars meant to keep our nation safe.
Of Judge, she cited a remembrance of a Franciscan brother, who noted that morning that the priest and NYFD chaplain was not in his daily spot where he offered morning prayers.
“Learning the World Trade Center was hit (Judge) had rushed to the site,” Naujoks said, noting that the priest was at a command center that had been set up after the first jet had slammed into one of the towers, saying fervent prayers.
Judge was killed by debris in the collapse of the first tower — his was the first recorded death on that terrible morning — and Naujoks said images of firefighters later carrying Judge’s body from the wreckage were exceptionally moving.
Dr. David Hilmey, acting university provost and vice president for academic affairs, said that while the St. Bonaventure community and Americans everywhere have grieved the losses of 9/11 for 20 years, the grieving goes on.
“We see that people continue to suffer and die” because of what happened that day, he said, a reference to those whose physical ailments from breathing the toxic air at or near the WTC site led to their untimely deaths, as well as soldiers lost or “physically and emotionally wounded” in the long War on Terror.
The toll has continued as 9/11 “refuses to let us forget,” he said.
But Hilmey said we can find solace and healing in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.”
Hilmey said while the anguish of 9/11 can never be erased, our nation can move forward if all work together — bind together — to build communities of “wisdom, integrity and compassion.”
In Olean Saturday, a parade of area first responders at 6 p.m. will also mark the 20th anniversary the terror attacks, followed by a program in Lincoln Park.
The parade begins at the municipal lot at the corner of West Sullivan and North First streets, heads to North Union Street and then south to Lincoln Park.
Participants include area fire trucks, ambulances and police units, with Mercy Flight of Western New York planning to fly a medevac helicopter overhead to lead the procession.