Darien holds Sept. 11, 2001 memorial service

DARIEN -- Lt. Commander George Walsh was a dive-bomber pilot during World War II, but on Sept. 11, 2001, the retired veteran could only sit in his house, watching the television screen as the World Trade Center towers fell.

"Is it only 8 years?" Walsh said Friday. "It feels like so much longer."

Walsh is a member of Darien's Monuments and Ceremonies Commission and one of the two dozen people who gathered at Middlesex Middle School on Friday morning to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I have a duty to be here," he said.

Even eight years later, the morning of Sept. 11 felt like one tragedy in a long history of fighting and violence, Walsh said.

"For me, it's just a continuation of the wars that started in the 1930s and have been continuing ever since," he said.

Phil Kraft, chairman of the Monuments and Ceremonies Commission, led Friday's remembrance ceremony in the Middlesex cafeteria.

"Remember that Darien lost a vital part of its community," Kraft said. "Numbers are not important. A single loss is a great one for a community like Darien."

Darien victims of the terrorist attacks include Christopher Gardner, Stephen LaMantia, Garry Lozier, William Meehan, Stacey Sanders and John Works.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., representatives from Darien's police and fire departments carried a wreath to a small memorial outside the cafeteria. The wreath was placed next to a rock inscribed with "May We Never Forget Sept. 11, 2001." Others then came forward to place roses on the rock.

"I'll always come as long as there is one," Nina Miller, of Darien, said about Friday's remembrance ceremony.

Miller was a teacher at Darien Nature Center preschool on Sept. 11, 2001. Her students could tell that their parents were upset but didn't understand why, she said.

"That day was sort of traumatic for teachers," Miller said.

Friday morning was cloudy, cold, damp and windy -- nothing like the blue skies and warm sunshine on the same day eight years earlier. After pausing for a moment of reflection at the memorial rock, the group returned indoors for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center.

Bob Harrel, who was first selectman of Darien in 2001, remembered being on his way to a funeral when he heard news of the terrorist attacks. After the service, he went to the town police station to see how they were responding.

"As I expected, everything was in order and under control," Harrel said.

Emergency workers had planned to go to the town's train stations to meet outbound trains from New York City and provide medical assistance to anyone who was wounded in the attacks.

Instead, emergency workers responded to a Long Neck Point Road house, where someone had suffered a heart attack while watching the attacks unfold on television.

Friday's memorial ceremony was brief and informal, but nevertheless demonstrated that the Darien community would never forget Sept. 11, 2001.

"The key word for today, I think, is remember,' Kraft said. "As it should be every year."