December 6, 2021

Homer honors 9/11 victims, responders

Shenandoah Briere/ staff reporter

Vincenzo Perfetti play taps on the trumpet while members of the Homer Police and Fire departments salute during a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony at the Sept. 11 monument next to the fire station on Main Street.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Kim Walsh’s grandparents could tell you how the world stopped turning during Pearl Harbor, her parents could tell you what it was like when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated — the Sept. 11 attacks are Walsh’s story.

Walsh was working in the Pentagon that day when she saw on TV the plane hit the first tower and a reporter describing how it had been an air traffic control error.

“We had no doubt it was some kind of attack,” she said.

Then a plane hit the first floor southwest corner of the Pentagon.

“It’s a surreal experience to see on TV that the building you’re in was just struck by a plane,” she said.

Walsh shared her memories of that day and the days that followed to around 50 people during a memorial ceremony honoring the thousands of lives lost during the Sept. 11 attacks and the ones
that continue to be lost due to illnesses from that day at the Sept. 11 monument next to the Homer Fire Station on Main Street.

“It could have been much worse,” she said, noting that the area that was struck was under construction and workers hadn’t fully moved back into the area.

She said normally 4,500 people would’ve been there on any given day.

Army and National Guard veteran Patrick Kelley was among the crowd. He went down to New York City with the 204th engineers out of Horseheads to help during recovery efforts in the days that followed. During his 15 to 18 hour shifts he provided guard duty as first responders dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center.

He remembers being covered in dust after every shift.

“The taste, the smell, they still haunt me to this day,” he said. “It was very overwhelming. It was a somber mood.”

He said memorial events like the one in Homer remind people to never forget what happened.

Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe was not in attendance of the ceremony because he and about 700 other motorcyclist rode from Hudson Valley into New York City and met up with at least another 400 motorcyclists
who were escorted by police to the Sept. 11 ceremony.

“It was a very moving ceremony,” McCabe said.

And Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish was among those who participated in the 5th annual Central New York Memorial Stair Climb at the Utica State Office Building in honor of the first responders who died that day. He and 400 other first responders climbed a total of 110 flights of stairs.

As the ceremony in Homer neared its end, silence set over the crowd and the two lines of firefighters and police officers stood in salute as Vincenzo Perfetti raised his trumpet and began playing taps. The crowd watched at the American flag waived just beside the monument.