Southsea ceremony marks 20 years on after 9/11 attacks with memorial flowers and service
A CEREMONY commemorating the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, has seen residents who lost friends and pupils who now study the atrocity in history class come together to plant memorial flowers in Southsea.
A crowd of more than 50 people gathered to hear music from Rose and Thistle Pipes and Drums and remarks from Fratton priest Canon Bob White and Portsmouth City Mayor Cllr Frank Jonas, before planting more than a hundred daffodil bulbs outside Southsea Castle.
Father Bob White said the act of remembrance should not be a ‘matter of words’ but it should ‘change the way...we engage with the world around us’.
He said: ‘I encourage each of us to both remember that day and all that happened – and it’s consequences...and then to commit ourselves to bring hope into our divided world, to bring peace, and to bring recognition of our need to support one and other.’
The day after the atrocity that killed 2,977 people, The News front page described it as ‘the moment that changed the world’.
Twenty years later, Gosport resident Charlie Lording came to pay her respects to her school friend Melanie de Vere, who grew up on Hayling Island and was on 106th floor of the north tower when the first plane struck it just seven floors below.
Charlie said: ‘She was on one of the top floors – it was her first day work. I remember I spoke to a friend and they said, “don’t you know that she was in the building?”.
‘I have been to the 9/11 site in New York, 10 years ago. it was very emotional.
‘Today has been a lovely service.’
For 15-year old Ruby Cass, representing Trafalgar School in Hilsea alongside teacher Peter Dudley, the ceremony helped to bring home a historic event that has been largely confined to school classes.
She said: ‘I wasn’t born then, but I have heard lots and lots about it. To come to the commemoration was incredibly humbling.’
Ruby said many of her school friends have a good understanding of the day’s significance – but ‘a lot’ of younger people still struggle to appreciate its impact.
She said: ‘The understanding of it is a bit of a grey area.’
Ruby’s father, Steve – a Lieutenant at HMS Sultan in Gosport – said that his thoughts were with colleagues in the USA armed services, who will be reflecting on the attack and the 20 years of conflict that it sparked.
He said: ‘I have a lot of USA colleagues, and today makes you think of them.
‘The 20th anniversary is a significant milestone, and there seems to be more commemorations this years. Long should that continue.
‘We went to New York before the memorials were built and the atmosphere was unique.’
Southsea firefighter Rob Gargaro, attending the Southsea event with fellow firefighters, visited the New York memorials on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
He said: ‘It was very moving – still very raw.’
Southsea crew manager Stephen Alchin said the day’s huge toll on emergency service members – who made up 412 of the attack’s victims – had changed attitudes towards help and support for all first responders.
He said: ‘The stigma of mental health and PTSD has come to the forefront – first responders have been given more support.’