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Peoria City Officials Mark The 20th Anniversary Of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Brady Johnson
Peoria Fire Department Honor Guard in the middle of posting the colors.

A sunny, windy day in Peoria marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Mayor Rita Ali, city council members, fire and police chiefs, and other city officials stood in remembrance. For over an hour personal recounting and reflecting carried through a crowd nearly fifty in size who attended the city’s ceremony.

Twenty bells rang for each passing year since the attacks - which had been followed by a costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as political division at home. Each official took a moment to offer their personal account witnessing the tragic murder of 2,977 people.

“Again this morning and twenty years ago tears coming down my cheeks, then I felt a lot of anger and this morning, getting ready to start my day, with the same type of feeling,” Councilmember Denis Cyr, 5th District, said in an interview after the event. Cyr, who immigrated from Canada, said that day was the reason he wanted to get involved in Peoria.

“I felt that day that Peoria was going to be my home for a... It’s where I live... it’s where I’m going to die really,” Cyr said. Cyr recounts even though he wasn’t a soldier or first responder he wanted to offer his support and see what he can do to make a difference. He said he became an American that day and officially a citizen on September 3rd, 2004.

Cyr, speaking in the ceremony, said these difficult emotions are still with us twenty years on.

Brady Johnson
Mayor Rita Ali speaking at the ceremony with city officials alongside her.

Earlier in the ceremony, Mayor Ali, in her remarks, said the first responders put her in mind of the buffalo - mentioning their uniqueness in the animal kingdom to charge into storms rather than run.

“That’s what they do every day across the globe and right here in our Peoria community,” Ali said. “I thank them and I honor them today and every day.”

Some attending firefighters left during the Mayor’s remarks to answer a call - turning the sirens on further down the street.

Fire Chief James Bachman at the beginning of his remarks recognized Chris Kelleher, a firefighter who was at Ground Zero the day of the attack. Bachman said the firefighter, who retired from the New York City Fire Department this past April, wanted to be in familiar company this morning.

“Many firefighters from across the country, including some Peoria firefighters, traveled to New York to attend the funerals of the fallen firefighters. Today, twenty years later, we stand here unified again together as a community to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Bachman said.

Police Chief Eric Echevarria saying in his remarks: “There is strength in union...let’s continue to stand united against those forces that want to bring unrest, disorder, and division among us. As people, we must stand united.”

“We can take that unified message that we’re stronger together and you heard that in several different reflections and speeches - that we’re stronger together. We’re stronger united. That if we work together we can build that foundation to have a better city, a stronger city," said Mayor Ali.

In one of those reflections Councilmember Denise Jackson, 1st District, said at the time of the attacks she was a local reporter.

“By the end of the day what was an objective mindset became one of enormous sadness,” Jackson said. In her remarks, Jackson says the collective action amidst 9/11 was something she has never witnessed in her lifetime.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Peoria County Clerk Rachael Parker sung America the Beautiful with some in attendance joining in.

“I am really proud of the Peoria City Council, proud of our first responders and their leadership. I feel closer actually to my colleagues on the council today,” Mayor Ali said after the event.

You can watch the Peoria September 11th Remembrance Ceremony in its entirety on the city’s Youtube page.