Governor, attorney general speak at 9/11 ceremony in Leavenworth
Shirley Hemenway lost her son in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and she said she worries that people have allowed everything to go back to normal in the years since.
But when she saw Governor Mark Parkinson, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six and a crowd of more than 200 people gathered in Leavenworth's VFW Park for a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Saturday morning, she could tell he wasn't alone in thinking about the attacks nine years ago.
“Something like this today makes me know that people remember,” Hemenway said.
Parkinson started his remarks by saying he was taken aback by the event's turnout.
“I had no idea how many people would be at this event,” Parkinson said. “This is truly overwhelming and inspiring for me, and it just makes me feel very good about being a Kansan and about being an American.”
Parkinson said he had ordered flags across the state to be flown at half-mast Saturday to encourage Kansans to draw together with the images of Sept. 11 in mind.
“The feeling of unity that we had as a country in the months after 9/11, we have just got to get back,” he said.
Six spent much of his address thanking members of the armed services who have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq in the nine years since the attacks on Sept. 11. He noted that those members, unlike those who served in past wars, had all volunteered to serve.
“In the past, we all shared more broadly as Americans in this effort,” Six said. “Today, that price is not shared equally. That is why it is right, it is proper, to come here today and to recognize those that are making the sacrifice on behalf of all of us.”
Shirley Hemenway and her husband Bob received a battlefield cross in memory of their son Ronald, a Navy electronics technician who died in the attack on the Pentagon nine years ago.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Bob Hemenway said of the ceremony. “I didn't expect all of this.”
Also in the Pentagon that day was Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, who is now commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. Caslen also spoke at the ceremony, paying tribute to the police, firefighters and others who died in the attacks.
“Americans will remember the true legacy of 9/11: that self-sacrifice exists in this nation, despite what our enemies and our detractors say,” Caslen said.
Caslen said he'd seen the power of the shared memory of the attacks in the minds of the service members he commands.
“The men and women who serve in our armed services are all members of a proud new 9/11 generation,” Caslen said, “a generation that saw their country attacked and have internalized the fact that our very way of life is now threatened because of this.”
Other speakers included Col. Wayne Green, garrison commander at Fort Leavenworth, who told stories of heroism from service members in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Leavenworth County Commissioner J.C. Tellefson, who read from the Gettysburg Address and applied its message to the situation the United States has faced since 2001.
Later in the ceremony, representatives from fire departments, police departments and the military laid memorial wreaths at the foot of an American flag, and local Boy Scouts held a flag retirement ceremony afterward.
Jeanne DeRuyscher and Cindy McGuire of Leavenworth Main Street, with State Rep. Melanie Meier from the Leavenworth VFW post, helped organize the event.