WILLIAMSBURG — A socially distanced and somber crowd of approximately 100 people gathered around the Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse on Duke of Gloucester Street this morning (Saturday, Sept. 11) to remember the lives lost on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.
The weather was gorgeous, with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees and a sky practically void of clouds. At precisely 8:45 a.m. the roll of a drum from Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes & Drums broke the silence as the program began.
Community leaders from around Williamsburg were on hand to give remarks and lead prayers.
In his opening benediction, Bruton Parish Episcopal Church Rector the Rev. Christopher Epperson, called to mind the duality of the occasion.
“This was a day of fear and catastrophic loss,” he said. “It was a day illustrating the worst human tendencies, to tear down and destroy. It also showed us the best of ourselves. We saw heroic action with no regard for the cost of caring for and saving others. We hold these things in dynamic tension.”
Katherine Rowe, president of the College of William & Mary, Doug Pons, mayor of the City of Williamsburg and Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation also gave speeches during the half-hour ceremony.
Fleet noted that everyone old enough to remember knew exactly where they were when the attacks started and how those events changed the nation forever.
“In the midst of all this change, we also knew that some things were going to remain constant,” he said. “We knew that as Americans we would remain unbound and despite the pain of that tragedy, freedom and democracy would endure.”
Rowe touched on how the William & Mary community and the Williamsburg community at large was affected by the attacks and how they responded over the last two decades.
“We honor all those who bravely serve our nation,” she said. “There is a memorial in the Wren yard that I pass by on the way to my office. It is a constant reminder of the tradition of sacrifice that is passed down from generation to generation of students, faculty, staff and neighbors.”
After the remarks concluded, Colonial Williamsburg’s Alyssa Elkins led those assembled in a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Local bagpiper Lynn Newcomer concluded proceedings by playing “Amazing Grace” in such a manner that the crowd stood in quiet reverie for several seconds after the pipes had gone silent.
Mayor Pons summed up the proceedings and pointed out how they connected to the events of twenty years ago.
“The hours and weeks after 9/11 taught us so much about ourselves,” Pons said. “As individuals, as communities, as a country. Today we honor those who died by continuing in that spirit of kindness and compassion like we have shown here today.”