State House ceremony honors those lost in Sept. 11 attacks, bravery of ordinary citizens
The images in the Massachusetts Sept. 11 memorial video looked like an extended family sideshow, with women in wedding dresses, men in uniforms, vacationers next to palm trees, and graduates in caps and gowns.
“The pictures, that always gets me,” said Kelly Bailey, a Danvers woman whose father-in-law, Garnet “Ace” Bailey, died on United Flight 175. She brought her 3½-year-old son, Evan Garnet Bailey, to the ceremony this year, the 11th anniversary of the hijackings, so that he could understand who his grandfather was.
The ceremony in the House Chamber of the State House this morning interspersed these moments of grief and remembrance with stories of inspiration, some known only to a few. Several hundred people, many of whom lost family members in the attacks 11 years ago, joined dignitaries including Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and US Senator Scott Brown.
The younger people in the audience, some born after the attacks, were a reminder of how much time has passed.
Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, who were 9 and 10 years old when the attacks happened, gave a keynote address about turning their anger into a national program to provide cellphones and free minutes to overseas troops. Now in college, the brother and sister have extended the program to help pay rent for a widow whose young daughter has brain cancer and to cover overdue storage fees for a returning soldier whose belongings would otherwise be auctioned.
Paul Antonino, a 53-year-old man from Wakefield, was given an award for bravery named for Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 who conveyed critical information to ground officials before her plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
In April, Antonino, who was out to dinner with his family, rushed into a burning building in East Boston to evacuate 23 adults and seven children before firefighters arrived at the 7-alarm fire.
“There was no hesitation. There was no calculation,” Murray said as he handed Antonino the glass award. “Twenty-three adults and seven children were left homeless, but everyone walked away alive.”
Murray said Antonino’s act was a reminder that ordinary people have greatness within them, if only they have the courage to summon it at the right moment.
Antonino said the award presenters had a hard time tracking him down because it was not the type of honor he thought he deserved. Growing up in the North End, he knew of many people who ran into buildings to protect people from fires, common at the time.
“There was no trophies. There was nothing happening like that,” he said.
He said was he was motivated by the grief he felt over the story of Patrick Papa, a North End man who was about 20 years old in 1974 when he ran into a building to save four young girls. Antonino said Papa ran back into the building to look for his mother and father, not knowing they had already escaped through the fire escape. But Papa was trapped in the building and died, he said.
“These are the reasons why I feel guilty,” he said. “I want to remember him and remember all the other people who do this all the time.”
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