Mayor David Alfin took the podium in Heroes Memorial Park during the city's Sept. 11 memorial service and called on Palm Coast residents to remember how Americans united in the face of tragedy 22 years ago.
"We focused on the love and comfort of family and friends," Alfin said. "We concentrated on a true sense of national patriotism with a capacity to recover and repair in the face of trauma."
On Sept. 11, 2001, 2,977 Americans were killed in the worst attack against the U.S. in its history. Palm Coast and Flagler County hosted several events on the 22nd anniversary to remember the lives lost and the first responders who gave their lives to save others.
Flagler County Fire Rescue hosted its third annual 9/11 Stair Climb at the Hammock Beach Golf Resort and Spa. Local firefighters and other participants — including Flagler Palm Coast High School Fire Leadership Academy students — climbed 10 flights of stairs 11 times to honor the 110 flights of stairs New York first responders climbed when the World Trade Center was struck by the two airplanes.
New York firefighters, burdened with over 60 pounds of gear and equipment, had been instructed to ascend the stairwells of each World Trade Center tower to where the planes hit. Each flight of stairs took about a minute to climb. American Airlines Flight 11 impacted floors 93 to 99 in Tower 1, while United Airlines Flight 175 struck floors 77 to 85 in Tower 2.
Palm Coast hosted its annual 9/11 Candlelight Memorial Service at 7 p.m. in Heroes Memorial Park. Though the service was cut short by rain and lightning, the Palm Coast Fire Department Honor Guard still rang the Firefighter Memorial Bell in honor of the lives lost.
Ironically, Alfin said, the attack on 9/11 brought out the best in Americans.
"We stepped forward, as brothers and sisters, to go after the terrorists and show anyone that if they harmed one American, they harmed us all," he said. "The things that unite us are so much more powerful than the issues that divide us."
A total of 343 firefighters and paramedics died in the line of duty on 9/11. Since then, PCFD Fire Chief Kyle Berryhill said, more first responders have died from injuries and illnesses sustained that day.
"I would say that not one of the firefighters [who] climbed those stairs did so so that we could gripe at our neighbors," Berryhill said.
The first responders who died that day did so for their neighbors and family, he said. Choosing to focus on love and kindness instead of anger, he said, is a way to honor the heroism of all those who died.
"The example that I want to emulate from the 9/11 heroes ... is to try to be kind to our neighbors," Berryhill said. "I believe that we can honor the sacrifices of our 9/11 heroes when we choose to live in a way that they wouldn't mind. When we choose to live in our very best way."