Sept. 11, 2008 — A handful of St. John residents, spearheaded by American Legion Viggo E. Sewer Post 131, marched around Cruz Bay Thursday to remember those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They also marched to honor those fighting for the United States in far-flung places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We have to support the troops because they're the ones keeping us protected," American Legion Post Commander Jerry Runyon said in a short ceremony after the march.
The ceremony was timed to begin around 8:46 a.m., the time the first hijacked airliner hit the World Trade Center and after the 15-minute "Freedom Walk" around Cruz Bay.
St. John resident Barbara Thompson, in her prayers for those fighting in the nation's wars, said she was thankful to them for defending the country.
Thompson later said that she has two sons serving in the military. Stephen Dalmida is with the U.S. Air Force and Raphael Dalmida is with the Army National Guard. Both are stationed in North Carolina.
Both Runyon and St. John Administrator Leona Smith said they hoped that next year would see a bigger turnout. This was the first year the American Legion, in conjunction with the V.I. National Guard, organized the march.
"We want to make this an annual event," Runyon said.
After the ceremony, Runyon and American Legion members Paul Devine and Elmo Rabsatt reflected on where they were during the terrorist attacks.
"I was at Pickles Deli having a cup of coffee," Devine said, referring to a long-closed Coral Bay restaurant.
Runyon, who worked for the Federal Highway Administration before his retirement, was on a job at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
"I was right across the bay. I saw the second one hit," he said, referring to the airplane that hit the second World Trade Center building.
Rabsatt, retired from V.I. National Park, said he was on patrol at Lameshur Bay when he heard on his hand-held radio about the first World Trade Center attack.
"I was at the Fire Station in Coral Bay when the second one hit," he said.
Rabsatt and other park employees headed back to the park's Cruz Bay facilities to "up the security" for the whole area.
It took a while for them to fully understand what had happened to the United States.
"It was disbelief at first, but later when the plane hit the Pentagon, it began to sink in," Devine said.
None of the three thought that St. John was at risk from a terrorist attack because the island didn't have any likely facilities for terrorists to target. However, they spoke about what would happen to the entire territory if terrorists hit the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix, because the refinery provides fuel to gas stations across the territory.
And Rabsatt noted that nearby Tortola in the British Virgin Island has a fuel depot located near the western end of the island.
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