The people of the Slate Belt united Sunday night in a ceremony of hope and remembrance at Bangor Memorial Park Stadium to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
As church bells rang and emergency sirens blared throughout the region, local color guards and the Blue Eagles Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps of Wind Gap led about 200 police, firefighters, emergency personnel and dignitaries into the stadium. A crowd of about 1,800 stood motionless and silent as a drummer in the band beat out a continuous cadence.
Donald and Dee Bouch of Bangor and their sons Donnie, 11, and Andrew, 8, sat together in the stands.
"We just felt it was our duty as Americans to support the country and show our backing for all those who have perished in the disaster and for the support of the president," Donald Bouch said.
"We [also] wanted to show our support for the armed forces that are going overseas to do what needs to be done," he added.
Before the ceremony, Bangor Elks Men's Chorus sang patriotic songs and later led the audience in singing "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America."
As the crowd sang the national anthem, firefighters sprayed water skyward from two hoses behind a U.S. flag flying from a ladder truck, and peace doves -- red, white and blue -- were released and circled the stadium.
As if on cue, the sky deepened to a red and blue in the twilight as area resident Frank Ginther spoke. Ginther, who spent 11 months as a prisoner of war in North Korea when the USS Pueblo was seized, talked about his return trip from a reunion with shipmates in Colorado.
"I was quite impressed with our trip home," Ginther said. "We saw flags displayed from cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles. We saw people waving flags standing on overpasses and bridges.
"I believe we all agree that we are in a battle with an enemy that is faceless, has no boundaries and is evilbut we will endure," he added.
Jennifer Renaldo of Bangor, who suggested the event to the Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce, said people were quick to get on the bandwagon and participate.
As a large U.S. flag was brought onto the stadium field by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the names of those who died with connections to the area were read. They are: Cindy Deuel, formerly of Northampton; Steve Olson, a New York firefighter with family in Easton; Colleen Supinski of Forks Township; Brian Warner of Pen Argyl; Laura Snik of Washington Township, and Jack Andreacchia, who has a brother and other family members in Bangor. Donations collected during the ceremony are expected to go to the families of those from the area, Renaldo said.
A rifle salute was fired and two versions of taps were played after the reading.
Rob Riley, 22, of Washington Township, a North Bangor firefighter and member of the Blue Valley Rescue Squad and Medic-9, says people seem to have a new respect for emergency personnel.
"Everybody waves and claps and cheers," he said, and they thank them for the job they are doing.
"It makes me feel better that the community is looking up to the emergency personnel," he said. "We have a tough job to do, and people respect us for that."