A spotlight on three uniformed Kenai firefighters raising an American flag over a replica of the fallen World Trade Center broke through a pitch black auditorium Wednesday as about 200 people remembered the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.
The moving reenactment was followed by the "ringing of four fives," a traditional bell-ringing tribute by firefighters to comrades who have fallen in the line of duty.
The events staged at Kenai Central High School at noon foreshadowed speeches by civic officials and local clergymen paying tribute to civilians and rescue workers killed a year ago when terrorists attacked targets in America.
The remembrance program, organized by Kenai Post 20 of the American Legion, included patriotic salutes to police, firefighters and military personnel, the singing of all four verses of "The Star Spangled Banner," and prayers led by Jim Duncan, pastor of the Soldotna Christian Center, Martin Hall, chaplain of Amvets Post 4, and Paul Hartley, pastor of the Kenai Nazarene Church.
"We feel we need to be here to show our support," said Lucy McNamara of Kenai, who attended the commemoration with three of her home-schooled children.
"I want the kids to be aware of what today is," said McNamara, who also was recognized with two other families as "blue-star families."
Along with the American Legion recognition, each family received a 1-foot square banner with a blue star in the center, representing the family's member currently serving in the armed forces.
One family at the Kenai ceremony was also recognized as a "gold-star family," a family with a member who died while serving in the military.
McNamara said she was "really worried" for her son, Bryan Stevens, 21, who is serving in the U.S. Air Force security forces in Fairbanks.
"He was there in Fairbanks a year ago, and thankfully, he's still in Fairbanks," she said.
Last year, her younger children attended school, and she had just put her son, Elia, now 12, on the school bus before she heard about what had happened in New York City.
"I just wanted him home. I wanted to keep all the kids at home," she said.
Also attending the Wednesday program with her were Maggie, 6, and Charlie, 10.
Another home-school mom in the audience was Rebecca Anderson of Kenai.
With her were sons Sam, 9, Mitch, 12, Joe 11, daughter Elizabeth, 6, nephew Dennis, 6, and mother Ruth Poage, sister Rachel Poage and her daughter, Kylah, 3.
"We're home-schooling and viewing this as a field trip ... a lesson in civics," Anderson said.
After the Kenai firefighters raised the flag over the WTC replica, which was constructed by members of the American Legion Auxiliary, other members of Post 20 presented the colors on stage to begin the remembrance.
Kenai Central High School choir soloist Megan Kohler then sang the first verse of the national anthem, followed by Synneva Hagen-Lillevik and Elensa Bird singing the second verse.
Choir members Audrey Coon, Megon Coon and Roxanna Wilcox then sang the third verse and were joined by Dean Shinn and Chris Gregg in the fourth.
An invocation was then followed by a brief speech from U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Mark McMan on behalf of all servicemen and women.
"We will rise to the challenge ahead to defend and protect this nation both at home and in foreign lands," he said.
"None of us will ever forget Sept. 11," said Bob Harrison, commander of American Legion Post 20.
"Many good and decent people died ... victims of an attack on America," he said.
"And once again, young men and women of America are putting on uniforms to defend our freedom."
As the names of Sept. 11 victims scrolled on a huge movie screen at the back of the stage, Kenai Fire Chief Scott Walden said, "Like every other morning, (police and firefighters) went to work that day because they had a job to do.
"We do this because it's our job, and I thank you for your support and respect and for the opportunity you give us to serve you."
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley thanked the peninsula's volunteers who "feed the poor, build homes for the homeless and protect our river," and Kenai Mayor John Williams read an official proclamation of the city "memorializing those men, women and children who lost their lives."
Bagley also asked people to "volunteer and encourage others to volunteer and this month, when you see a man or woman in uniform in one of our cities, stop and thank them for the public service they do."
Church and civic leaders then laid wreaths at the base of the WTC replica and the fire bell was rung 11 times, once each for all the wars America has been through from the American Revolution to the Persian Gulf War.
After two buglers off-stage played taps, a benediction was offered and people exited as a recording to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" played.
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