A local Duluth veterans group, Veterans United for Freedom, hosted a 9/11 event honoring first responders at the American Legion on Grand Avenue on September 11th. Neill Atkins, Head of Ceremony, lead the event which featured speakers, food, and a musical performance by popular Duluth musician, Sydney Hanson.
The event brought together Duluthians looking to honor and remember those lost in the tragedy of 9/11. Speakers included Congressman Pete Stauber who spoke of the unity Americans felt after 9/11 and how wonderful it would be if we could return to that. Father John Petrich shared his story of traveling to ground zero after the attack to join other chaplains counseling victims and their families. They honored each victim as they were pulled from the wreckage.
Veterans United for Freedom Commander, Dwight “Deac” Nelson organized the dignified event and also delivered an inspiring speech asking that we renew the commitment of solidarity that so many felt after the towers fell. He said:
“Today, we should remember that nineteen years ago we discovered that when we stand together in faith and in solidarity; when we reach across the social, cultural and religious lines that divide us; when we lift our voices in hope and in a shared brotherhood, nothing can break our spirits; nothing can destroy our eternally relevant and eternally timeless striving for a world made more perfect and a world redeemed. Today, as we gather here to remember and to reflect; let us also renew our commitment to each other. Let us renew our commitment to solidarity and to a shared society. Let us renew our faith in the fundamental truth “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Every day in our prayers, as a community we affirm the message from Proverbs: “We will have no fear of the suddenness of terror.” Together and united we shall not be afraid.”
Other notable attendees included candidates, Donna Bergstrom for MN Senate District 7, who is a retired LtCol. in the Marines, and Tom Sullivan, running for Minnesota House in District 7A. Over a dozen officers in uniforms and vests were present with their squads.
Notable by their absence was any representative for the city administration. The Mayor was invited but didn’t respond or attend, or send anyone to represent the city.
Early in the event, an attendee arrived with a Trump flag. An American Legion representative asked the attendee to remove the flag. While Legion representatives and organizers honored the attendee’s first amendment rights, they wanted the event to be nonpartisan with the goal of promoting community and unity. After first getting a bit upset with the request the attendee changed his mind, put the flag in his vehicle, and joined the event.
Organizers with the Veterans United for Freedom were proud to be able to put on an a-political event for their community. They hope the heartfelt sentiments shared by the speakers and felt by the crowd will be spread by those that attended.
Photos provided by Veterans United for Freedom