16 years later, Warwick remembers 9/11

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Warwick held multiple remembrance events to honor the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who were killed in four separate instances of terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001. Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the attacks that have since shaped the modern global landscape, and affected tens of thousands of people directly and many more millions indirectly.

First, at the Knight Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, the Knight Student Government organized an event which featured local police and firefighters, local and state legislators, members of the Rhode Island Patriot Guard Riders and remarks from CCRI president Meghan Hughes and the Director of Veterans Affairs for Rhode Island, Kasim Yarn.

“I can’t think of a better place to be on this somber occasion than on this campus,” Yarn said. “Because you represent the future of America. To today’s youth, we need you more than ever.”

Knight Student Council President Charles Meserve reflected on the day of the attacks and the immediate response of the country’s citizens. He said that the unity displayed throughout the nation is what we should aspire to every day.

“For me, today was about that image,” he said. “It didn’t matter of the color of your skin, your veteran status, your gender or your sexual orientation. You were an American that day, and you were a friend.”

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian commented on how encouraging it was to see so many young people, many of whom were very young children when the attacks happened, were now leading the charge on ensuring that the day is never forgotten.

“It’s amazing that they always talk about how kids will lead us and today, the kids of September 11th are leading us again,” Avedisian said.

CCRI president Meghan Hughes praised the work of the student organizers, Meserve and his friend Michael Chapasko, and said that events like this were necessary to bring people together once again.

“We are all Americans,” Hughes said. “And in these very difficult times, boy does it matter to come together and say it out loud.”

Across the city at John Wickes Elementary School, students who were not even alive when the attacks occurred listened attentively as Principal Roy Costa gave a short version of the events of the day – events that those who lived through them can never forget.

“It’s in the national fabric now,” said Avedisian.

Such an event has been held at the school every year since the attacks happened, and it is the only school in Warwick to have done so.

Rounding out the day was a ceremony at the Oakland Beach 9/11 Memorial, featuring family members and friends of the three Warwick residents who died during the attacks – Carol Bouchard, Renee Newell and Mark Charette – as well as a Warwick resident who was working at Ground Zero when the attacks occurred, Judy Cobden, who shared her harrowing story of narrowly escaping from harm on the day.

“I was just a civilian at work,” said Cobden, who went to her office job working on the American Stock Exchange as scheduled after the first place had struck because it was assumed to have been an accident. After the second plane hit, though, this hopeful explanation evaporated.

“As we tried to leave and escape, we entered into a warzone,” she said. “The horror – the sounds, sights and smells – will never be forgotten.”

Cobden delivered her address wearing the same shoes that she used to run away from the scene of unimaginable terror. Although she cleaned them following the attacks, she has never untied them since that day, and wears them on every Sept. 11 as a memorial of her own.

Cobden said that Americans should always respect and appreciate their local firefighters and police officers, and that the events of 16 years ago proved how they will sacrifice themselves to protect others. Likewise, she said members of the military deserve respect for their sacrifices and willingness to face horrors like were seen on our home soil elsewhere in the world with alarming frequency.

“I only had this one day to experience the atrocities of war firsthand, as that is what it felt like,” she said. “I was lucky to survive one horrible day. What they’re able to do day in and day out is beyond courageous.”

Contains reports from John Howell

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