Veterans, first responders and members of the community gathered on Tuesday evening at Veterans Memorial Park to honor the dead of 9/11 and the spirit of unity arisen from the fall of the towers.
Chief Mike Wilson, who emceed the ceremony on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1175, noted how 9/11 produced more casualties on the day of the attacks and in the years since than the total population of Atchison. To this day, he observed, cancer and other maladies directly caused by what people went through are adding to the toll.
However, as emphasized by Wilson and keynote speaker Mike Nigus, an Army veteran and assistant football coach for Benedictine College, the aftermath of 9/11 has produced more than enough unity, love and patriotism to outweigh the violence and chaos caused by Al Qaeda.
“I think everyone leaves this ceremony feeling a certain feeling of national pride,” Wilson said. “Over the years, we’ve had large, small and medium groups turn out. The effect is the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re in New York City or Atchison, Kansas, everyone remembers where they were on 9/11, what we all went through. Everyone comes together after this.”
Nigus, who served in the Army for four years, attaining the rank of sergeant said he considered the invitation to speak to be a special honor.
“Here’s the truth, I think the only people who haven’t been affected by the events of 9/11/01 are maybe ... No. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way. Even those alive today who hadn’t been born yet, are still dealing with it in some way. It changed the world in some way. I think it’s affected everybody. And it should.”
Nigus said he’s glad to see people continually turn out for events like Tuesday’s commemoration.
“I see the community band together,” he said. “I see people make investments in one another. I see public servants that are able to stand tall on a day and be proud of what they do, especially when we live in times where public servants may be looked down upon. So, I think it gives the opportunity for a little bit of recognition to EMS, firefighters and law enforcement, so they can be proud of this life they have chosen.”
If anyone forgot how much pride the community has in its first responders, Wilson reminded police officers in attendance Tuesday, they need only consult the mountain of presents and deserts delivered by well-wishers on Patriots’ Day.
“I think we probably have enough cookies at the station to last a month,” Wilson said.