The community kept a promise to remember and came together on the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (September 16, 2021) – The community of Loveland gathered along the road to watch a parade Saturday, September 11, 2021, but it was not a celebration of a championship team, or a holiday, rather it was a remembrance of heroes. The parade was the start of the 20th Anniversary of 9/11/2001.

LSFD Chief Otto Huber (2nd from right) views the Memorial 9/11 ceremony he and his men put together (Chuck Gibson)

It was the work of the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department headed by Chief Otto Huber. It really began with a promise to never forget that day in New York City, the Pentagon, or in that field in Pennsylvania. Representatives of Fire departments and Police Departments from all across the tri-state area answered the call to remember. They came out to participate in the parade. The community came out to see, to remember and to honor those first responders.  Loveland mayor Kathy Bailey saw the community line the street with hands on their hearts and applauding as the firefighters and police passed.

“It warms your heart,” said Bailey. “I’m very proud of my city always, but especially today.”

The parade led to the Firemen’s Memorial alongside the Scenic Little Miami River Trail in Loveland where the 9/11/2021 Memorial Ceremony would take place. The weather was perfect, the setting was perfect and the crowd, including firemen, policemen, and military servicemen, gathered to pause and remember – as promised.

Loveland Mayor offers welcome remarks as Colonel Brad Wenstrup,his son Brad, and Rabbi Robert Barr look on.(Chuck Gibson)

“All the credit goes to Chief Huber and the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department for putting this together,” Bailey said. “Seeing all the community that came out; I think it’s important to be together, to reflect together. I’m very grateful to Chief Huber and the LSFD for giving us this opportunity. It’s cathartic. It’s needed. We need it as a community.”

 Bailey reflected on her memory of 9/11/2001 – 20 years ago recalling her disbelief.

“I couldn’t believe it when the towers fell,” she recalled. A firefighter told her they knew the towers would fall. “Oh my gosh, they still ran toward them.”

Bailey wondered aloud what we would do without our first responders and military. She’s saddened to reflect on the long path this country has taken “in a bad way” since that day 20 years ago.

“I wish we could go back to 9/12/2001 when the whole country came together as a country,” Bailey mused. “Put aside whatever political petty differences we had and really did talk to people in the street we never saw before. I’d like to see us get back to that.”

Ralph Quisno, Mildred Jones and Rick Hagee performed the National Anthem and other patriotic and moving songs during the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in Loveland, OH (Chuck Gibson)

Colonel Brad Wenstrup, Army Reservist, U.S. Representative – Ohio 2nd Dist. was the keynote speaker (Chuck Gibson)

Bailey spoke during the formal ceremony and talked about the first responders who lost their lives trying to save lives. She introduced Brad Wenstrup, U.S. Army Reservist and U.S. Representative (Rep-Ohio 2nd District) as the keynote speaker. Wenstrup gave a moving speech that lasted 10 minutes. He began by recounting the terrorist attacks against the United States from the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Beirut in 83, Bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerby, Scotland in 1988, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, Saudi attack in 96, U.S. Embassy in Iraq in 1998, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, 2000. Then came the recounting of the terrorist attacks on our homeland in 2001: The World Trade Center Towers NY City, The Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the attack on United Airlines Flight 93 over Pennsylvania.

“This is not a celebration, you know that,” said Wenstrup. “It’s a chance to remember, to commemorate and to pay tribute to all those killed on 9/11- towers, Pentagon, Flight 93, on the planes and those who rushed in to help other; all before, all since including 13 Marines in Afghanistan August 26, 2021.”

Cermonila Flower Wreath was placed at the memorial with 13 flags representing 13 Marines killed August 26, 2021 visible in the background (Chuck Gibson)

Wenstrup cited 13 American Flags flying at the memorial in Loveland Saturday, 9/11/21 and noted each represented the 13 U.S. Marines killed just days ago.  He named them, one-by-one, all thirteen with their full name and rank.

“Some were not even alive September 11, 2001,” Wenstrup said. “All accepted a dangerous mission. Like a Gold Star dad said: Not lives lost, lives given, given while attempting to save others. Our nation is filled with people who put others first; clearly displayed by New York Police and Fire as well as servicemen at the Pentagon and Todd Beamer who said ‘Let’s roll and took that plane down saving thousands of lives.”

Wenstrup  delivered a reminder the war is not over. It didn’t start on 9/11/2001 and sadly it did not end on 9/11/21. 

He talked about how for 20 years we’ve been protected from foreign attacks on our soil. We’ve gone to bed feeling safe, secure and unafraid and Wenstrup said we know who to thank for that. Then he wrapped up his remarks with a reminder.

“I want you to remember that. I want you to know all of those who have sacrificed and given or their lives want one thing: for you to be here tonight,” said Wenstrup. “For you to be able to come out, be in your community, and to care for one another and to live a full free life. God Bless you all and God Bless America!”

Colonel Brad Wenstrup with his son Brad Wenstrup (Chuck Gibson)

A crowd estimated over 700 cheered the speech by Brad Wenstrup (Chuck Gibson)

Wenstrup received a rousing round of applause from a most appreciative community gathered to pause, remember and reflect. Afterward he was able to reflect on the personal impact of that day 20 years ago.

His first response was shock and “That’s not an accident. We’re at war,” upon first learning the plane was a commercial airliner. He wondered then what else would happen that day and how many other planes might be up there. As an Army Reservist, he waited for a call, he wanted to do something. Twenty years later, Wenstrup reflected on the memorial event; “the symbolism and solemn nature of the event” in Loveland.

“All these people coming out here as a community, especially after 18 months of COVID,” Wenstrup said. “This is an inspiring and beautiful thing to see Americans out in their community being together smiling; yet with the sincere tone of the event still solemn. I think the take away is appreciate every day.”

Lt. Fire Department, New York – Steve Mormino retired, places a memorial wreath at Loveland Memorial during September 11, 20th Anniversary Ceremony in Loveland Saturday evening 9/11/21 (Chuck Gibson)

The ceremony included an invocation by the Rev. Bill Hounshell, placing of memorial wreaths of flowers with LSFD Color Guard, Goshen Piper Pipes, The placing of the Trade Center Girder by Loveland Police Department with FDNY Lieutenant Steve Mormino. Taps were played as the flag was lowered by the HPCA Color Guard. Rabbi Robert Barr gave a powerful benediction. Patriotic songs including our National Anthem were performed by singers Ralph Quisno and Mildred Jones with accompaniment by Rick Hagee.

“Our team did an excellent job,” said Chief Huber. “I’m proud of them every day for what they do for our community. We get so much support from the community.”

HCPA Color Guard marches in during the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)

A Mason, Ohio firefighter salutes during the 9/11 ceremony in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)

Huber recalled September 11, 2001 as an absolutely beautiful day with the horrific attack turning it into a most unusual day. He and the firefighters just sat at the firehouse watching it and just couldn’t believe it. The first thing they wanted to do was go there and help.

“Everybody wanted to go there to help,” Huber said. “That was amazing. That shows what a brotherhood and sisterhood there is for first responders. It was one time when our community here in Loveland and our country truly came together about what we are as a country. I’m just proud to be with this community.”

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS from a FDNY Lieutenant who was there:

Chief Huber was also very grateful for the presence of FDNY Lieutenant (Retired) Steve Mormino again. Lieutenant Mormino has come to the LSFD 9/11 Memorial in past years. He was an active FDNY firefighter on September 11, 2001. He chose to return to Loveland, Ohio and be part of the 20th Anniversary Memorial despite still making his home in New York. After the ceremony Saturday, 9/11/2021 in Loveland, FDNY Lieutenant Steve Mormino took time to share his reflections on September 11, 2000 and the Memorial Ceremony 20 years later on 9/11/2021.

FDNY Lt.Steve Mormino salutes (far right) in front of girder from “Ground Zero” placed at Loveland Memorial (Chuck Gibson)

Here is what he had to say:

“It’s a lot of memories, it brings it back, it’s very emotional. The most emotional I got was talking to my kids today. I called them all; they’re three grown women now, three daughters.” 

They are Jackie who is 37, Jen is 35, and Katie is 25.

“She (Katie) was just five and she was in elementary school, Jackie and Jen were a senior and sophomore in high school. When that was going down, people just thought of leaving school. They were beside themselves because I hadn’t called home yet. They called my mom and dad. They heard from my two brothers, another firefighter and a police officer and no one’s heard from me yet. It was tough day for them until I was finally able to get to a phone and call and say I was okay. Me, not even thinking of what I needed to do, I was concentrating the site.”

Saturday, he was able to call them, reflect with them from Loveland.

“We had a great conversation, all in tears, but grateful, very grateful. In 2008, I was diagnosed with lung disease. (from contaminants from 9/11/2001) It’s managed by medication, I’m okay. As of today, there is 257 firefighters that have died from 9/11 cancer resulting from the contaminants. It’s a never-ending thing on our mind. Every time you go to the doctor, have a cough – what’s that about? Those numbers continue to grow. We’re still losing people.”

It’s something we – you and me – the people who weren’t there just don’t think about.

“Three friends of mine passed away this year. They’re young men. Today we honor them which is a great thing. We remember them. We remember their sacrifice and we never forget them. It’s great that . . . what a community, oh my gosh unbelievable job they did. Some of the people have asked me: ‘Why Ohio, why aren’t you back in New York?’ I’m always there. When I get an invitation, I can’t turn it down. It’s just incredible and the people I’ve met here are amazing.”

Colonel Brad Wenstrup with FDNY Lt. Steve Mormino at LSFD 9/11 Memorial Saturday, 9/11/2021 (Chuck Gibson)

FDNY Lt. Steve Mormino flanked by two firefighters in Ohio Justin Moody and John O’Toole (Chuck Gibson)

I asked him what stood out for him at the Loveland 20th Anniversary 9/11 Memorial.

“Honor. Honor. I mean that Colonel’s (Brad Wenstrup) message was incredible. This is America. You see flags all over the place. This is America. Unfortunately it is not like that all over the place. This is why I want to come here. I want people that are going to honor, respect and take care of each other.”

Then FDNY Lieutenant Steve Mormino recalled September 11, 2001 – his personal experience and memory of that day 20 years ago.

“One of the things, my oldest brother was there for both collapses. When both towers came down, he was there onsite. I knew where he was and not knowing if he survived was brutal for me. I’ll never forget that time. The first tower collapsed, he was able to get into a subway, then remove the debris, dig himself out and met up with his team. He was on the way to the command post which Chief Ganci perished. Had they gone to the right, around the building they would have all been killed. Five of them are alive today because they made that left turn instead of right – including my brother Donald. There are so many stories.”

The immediate aftermath of the collapse provided some of the most heart-wrenching stories and memories.

“I worked with father’s looking for sons and sons looking for their father, brothers missing; people grabbing you in the street – please find my loved one. Have you seen this person? You never forget that stuff. St. Paul’s Church was right outside “Ground Zero” the poster boards all over the fence . . . it was before social media. . . have you seen this person. It all just comes right back.”

In Loveland, Ohio Chief Otto Huber, the firefighters who work for him and the community came out to honor FDNY Lieutenant (Retired) Steve Mormino and all his brothers on Saturday, 9/11/2021 – The 20th Anniversary, September 11, 2001. It was a night to pause and remember.

“This community kept their promise,” Chief Huber said. “We said we wouldn’t forget, they haven’t and here we are.”