In Cuyahoga Falls, a bell rang thrice three times, and in Tallmadge, thousands of candles lined walkways in the city’s famous Circle.
Communities scattered across Summit County held remembrances Saturday for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that changed the nation forever.
The Cuyahoga Falls event focused on the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the attacks and the heroism they displayed trying to save others. A Last Alarm Memorial Service began at 8:15 a.m. with brief remarks from Fire Chief Chris Martin and Mayor Don Walters, followed by a time to reflect.
At 8:46 a.m., a bell was rung nine times, in sets of three rings each, to signify the end of the last call of firefighters whose lives were lost while responding to the 9/11 attacks.
Craig Dyer of Tallmadge joined more than 100 people at the Cuyahoga Falls ceremony held in the city’s Downtown Amphitheater.
Dyer said he had friends in New York City the day of the attack, including one who escaped from one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. He said the event brought back memories of the unity 9/11 created.
“It reminds you of the time when everybody, despite race, religion, political affiliations — everyone — came together,” he said. “I think the significance and the way people treat one another has changed over the course of time.”
In his remarks, Walters praised the heroism of firefighters the day of the attacks, noting how they entered the burning towers to save lives.
“As we ran down, they ran up,” he said.
Cuyahoga Falls resident Susan Westfall brought her daughter Danielle, 14, to the ceremony because her daughter hoped to hear stories about that day.
Danielle said her grandfather, a security guard, told her about 9/11 and she also learned about it in school.
Susan Westfall said she was at work with 150 co-workers when she heard the news.
“We all just gathered around the TV,” she said.
Cuyahoga Falls resident Don Tausch was in the U.S. Navy when the attacks came, based at an Akron recruiting location. In the days following the attacks, a patriotic wave swept the nation.
“We had a lot of people who wanted to join … who decided they needed to serve,” he said.
In Tallmadge, William Wamsley of Mansfield and his daughter, Izzy, 12, walked along the rows of candles.
“I was in ninth grade when it happened,” Wamsley said.
He was 14, and didn’t realize the significance of what had occurred. When he went home from school, his dad, a Vietnam veteran, explained it to him.
“He broke it down for me,” Wamsley said. “It really hit home with him.”
Izzy wasn’t sure what to think of the anniversary.
“I just want her to know there’s more to life than just herself,” Wamsley said.
C.J. Borich volunteered to light some of the 2,976 candles in the Tallmadge display.
“When something that tragic happens, it should continue to be remembered,” she said.
She was in study hall at Stow High School when the first plane hit, but didn’t find out until her next class began. Borich remembers how quiet everything was when she went home. The roads and skies were nearly empty.
“I’ve never seen a sky that clear,” she said.
Tallmadge Fire Chief Mike Passarelli said the candle display is about remembering all the people who died on 9/11. It contains 343 red candles for fire department personnel, 60 blue candles for police, 55 green candles for military personnel and 2,518 white candles for civilians.
“Each one of these candles is a person’s life,” he said. “We’ve done it for 20 years, now.”
The first year, there were fewer candles, but Passarelli raised $3,000 from the city’s businesses to buy nearly 3,000 candles at cost from the A.I. Root Co. in Medina for the display the following year.
Passarelli said the candles have to be replaced every four years, but businesses continue to donate to the cause.
One year he was short $500 and approached Carter Lumber President and CEO Neil Sackett. Passarelli walked out with the funds he needed.
“He wrote a check for the balance,” the fire chief said.
Passarelli said Saturday’s volunteer crew of about 100 individuals was the biggest in the display’s two decades.
The fire chief said he was getting ready for a 10 a.m. funeral for a Tallmadge officer the day of 9/11 in 2001.
“We were standing outside in our parking lot when Flight 93 made its turn,” he said.
Since 9/11, people have lost much of the unity they felt after the attacks, he said.
“We’re not very kind to each other,” he said. “… I think it’s sad.”