Sept. 11, 2001, many would argue, had become the most tragic and terror-filled day America had ever known. Ever since, when the anniversary approaches, America tries to heal itself by never forgetting the victims.
St. Croix did its part to remember and honor those victims Tuesday as more than 60 people participated in the America Supports You Freedom Walk, sponsored by the American Legion.
“It’s important because we always have to remember what got us here, that egregious attack on America,” VING Adjutant General Renaldo Rivera said. “We need to never forget that a lot of folks lost their lives and folks still continue to lose their lives as the events go on.”
“The war is still on,” he continued. “With our participation as a community as a whole, it shows our support for those folks that lost the loved ones and shows that we have some solidarity along with the president of the United States.”
St. Croix residents Ophelia Walters and Vielka White are two of the loved ones left behind by victims of the attacks and both were in attendance Tuesday.
White’s mother, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Maudlyn A. White, died at the Pentagon.
Walter’s daughter, Claudia Sutton, worked on floor 101 of the North World Trade Center tower and died when it fell. Walters said not an hour goes by when she doesn’t think of and remember her daughter Claudia.
“She was really a wonderful person. She was always on time, nice and precise, and was well set in her ways of doing things right,” Walters said.
“That morning she was running a little late and she turned back to kiss the baby,” Walters continued. “But she still wanted to be early. I wish she didn’t go early, but this was to happen.”
Walters also spoke of how she copes with the loss.
“I wouldn’t say I get over it, because I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to seeing her in the first resurrection when Jesus comes back.”
The following names represent Virgin Islanders killed in the attacks or those who were related to Virgin Islanders:
- Maudlyn A. White
- Claudia Sutton
- Christian Maltby (World Trade Center)
- William Henry Jr. (firefighter at the World Trade Center)
- Chris Kirby (construction worker at the World Trade Center)
- Felix "Bobby" Calixte (World Trade Center)
- John Holland
After the walk concluded, a brief ceremony took place inside the American Legion Headquarters where various speakers paid tribute to the victims. It was followed by a rifle salute outside and the lying of a wreath.
During his remarks, V.I. Fire Service Chief Angel Torres commented on how Sept. 11 has made America rethink its priorities.
“It has made us realize that life is precious, time is indefinite and human relations are paramount,” Torres said. “In an age where people work a 10-hour day, Sept. 11 has taught us that time for family and friends is much more important, and it’s brought many back to their maker. Today we remember and mourn those whose tomorrows were snatched away.”
When keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis spoke, he cited the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed the 9/11 attacks and used the opportunity to praise those who’ve died and served America in the name of freedom.
“They took an oath, a solemn oath, to serve this great nation,” Francis said.
“We should always remember to be proud of those individuals,” he said.
Perhaps the most solemn moment came when Legionnaire Richard Schrader Sr. read a poem he came across in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps a sign of great art, the closing lines still seem pertinent today, 11 years after that tragic, unforgettable day.
“The ashes of terror lifted, through mines of steel and mortar, from those hallowed grounds towers of hope and peace will rise,” Schrader said, his voice getting louder. “Towers of hope and peace will rise.”