Monday, September 12th, 2011
By Amy Kronenberger
The Mercer County Firefighters Association Color Guard leads a parade of fire tr. . .
CELINA - Mercer County residents gathered Sunday in Celina to share their sadness for the past and hope for the future on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
About 1,000 residents attended the tribute to the men and women in uniform - military and safety service - who are serving and who have served America.
Mercer County's Day of Remembrance took city officials two years to plan, 911 administrator Monte Diegel said.
"This isn't just about today," Neptune resident Paul Siebert said before the ceremony began. "What do we think about the bombs hitting Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It's not just attacks against the U.S. but all over. We have to remember we're all God's children, regardless of politics."
The emotional ceremony at Lakeshore Park included patriotic songs performed by Miss Ohio 2009 Erica Gelhaus, and marching bands from Celina and St. Henry high schools played as a solemn procession of uniformed members of service marched from the courthouse to the park. The members were greeted with a respectful silence by attendees.
"We knew our lives were changing, but we didn't understand it," Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue told the crowd during the opening address. "Today, we remember the loved ones left behind, the brave emergency personnel and how the U.S. was truly united as one."
As poems of remembrance were read by public safety personnel, children with no memory of the terrible events of 10 years ago ran around, playing with siblings and friends and waving Old Glory.
As Celina resident and World Trade Center tower survivor Jerry Winhoven shared his story, many adults wiped tears from their cheeks and bowed their heads. Winhoven's monotone, yet emotional testimony brought back sharp images of the day no one will forget.
"I remember breathing a sigh of relief as I made it out of the tower," Winhoven told the crowd. "At the entrance, a rescue worker looked me straight in the eye and told me to run as far and as fast as I could. I believe she saved my life."
In a touching salute, the Life Flight helicopter flew across Grand Lake, hovered just before the park and bowed its nose to the uniformed personnel. A giant American flag hung from the ladders of two firetrucks.
Diegel then shared the story of the two "Two Minutes of Silence" paintings on display.
Artist Peter O'Neill painted the image of a firefighter kneeling down, his head bowed and the American flag draped around his shoulders, shortly after the terrorist attack. The original painting sold for $20,000 and was donated to the New York Fire Department, where it still hangs today. Proceeds from the painting were given to one of the survivor funds.
"Mr. O'Neill was so moved by the attention, he vowed to donate an 8-by-10 lithograph copy to every fire station in the country," Diegel said. "Mr. O'Neill then went further and commissioned 100, 30-by-40-inch copies of the original to donate to functions and organizations."
The commissioned copies were retouched, numbered and signed by the artist. The Mercer County Firefighters Association received copy number 9. Diegel, who became a friend of O'Neill, received another copy as a gift, copy 11.
"Today in front of you is 9 and 11, and they both reside in Mercer County," Diegel said to the crowd. "No where else in the world can make this claim."
The ceremony closed with "Amazing Grace," sung by Gelhaus and played by bagpipes, a 21-gun salute and a performance of Taps.
"Some people say we should forget and not dwell on the past, but I think it's important to remember, not only the bad of that day, but the good that came from it," Celina resident Charlene Wenning said after the ceremony. "We need to learn from the past and find more meaning in our lives."