LEBANON — Speakers at Lebanon's September 11 memorial ceremony agreed: America is a nation with ideas and opinions as widely varied as its people.
Within that diversity is room for unity, however. And nowhere was that unity more on display than the day 17 years ago, when terrorists took over four jet planes and sent the United States into a tailspin of grief.
It's the memory of that unity, that resolve to hold strong in the face of those who would celebrate our downfall, that we as Americans need to cling to today, said Lebanon Police Officer David Dominy, who served as the master of ceremonies for Tuesday evening's ceremony at the Circle of Flags on Mullins Drive.
"We were knocked on our knees. But what they didn't expect was for us to get back up, and we as Americans did just that," Dominy said.
"No matter what you may do to us, we will rise from the ashes and rubble and face the adversity with courage."
Close to 200 people, along with dozens of Scouts, veterans, American Legion members, Lebanon High School music students, and police officers and firefighters turned out for Tuesday's event.
Gathered in silence and the chill of a steady rain, they listened as Seven Oak Middle School student Sam Thompson recounted the chilling timeline and the death toll of the day's attacks. They clapped for the Lebanon High School Chamber Choir and the LHS Jazz Band, applauded as Mayor Paul Aziz proclaimed Sept. 11 "Patriots Day," and bent their heads in respect as Pastor Kyle Randleman gave the benediction.
David and Traci Black, with their son Caleb, 12, huddled under a blanket to escape the pelting drops. Traci had driven the bus that carried the high school band to the ceremony, but she and her family also came to listen.
It's important, Traci said, "just as it's important to remember December 7. To remember those times when someone is giving it to us on the chin."
The bad times are as critical to remember as the good ones, she went on. The death and destruction of 9/11 was horrific, she said, but it did bring Americans together. "That can be the triumph out of this tragedy."
U.S. Army Major Derrick Sorweide, a professor of family medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest, was one of the featured speakers Tuesday. He told listeners about his recent deployment to Iraq.
The country is far from healed, but good things are happening there, Sorweide said: Roads and bridges are being replaced, schools and stores are reopening, universities and hospitals are being constructed, and it's once again possible to see "old men enjoying an evening cup of chai in peace."
People in Iraq can think in terms of hope and opportunity again, Sorweide said. That's because of unity in efforts here.
He closed with a post a family member wrote on Facebook recently, urging people to remember that unity and come together despite differences.
"Let's not wait for another tragedy to show our love for one another," he read.
"Be good, be humble and be the change."