Community Together in Unity pays remembrance to 9-11


DIXON – Amboy Fire Chief Jeff Bryant Sr. knew he had a tough responsibility on Saturday, Sept. 9.

He also knew the job he was doing wasn’t as tough as the ones who died doing their jobs during the 9-11 terrorist attack in 2001.

After watching a few 9-11 videos and listening to music that put him in the right state of mind, Bryant Sr. hosted a memorial ceremony called Community Together in Unity, Remembering the 22nd Anniversary of 9-11 at Sauk Valley Community College.

“The Blackhawk Firefighter’s Association has been doing it since post 9-11. We started in 2003 and the first ceremony was held at the Dixon High School,” said Bryant, who is a past president of the BFA. “We’ve progressed where the majority of the last few years, the ceremony has taken place at Sauk Valley Community College. We do it every other year where it would be the odd years on the calendar, but the even years for the anniversary of 9-11.

“I thought it was very dynamic. I think they’re keynotes during speeches, which we have no influence on, were spot on about the generations of ‘Let’s not forget, let’s remember’ and what it meant for those 3,000-plus who died during 9-11 and those individuals who have died since with 9-11 elements.”

The Blackhawk Firefighter’s Association had many representatives present from different counties, including Whiteside, Lee, Bureau, LaSalle, DeKalb, Ogle, Stevenson, and Carroll.

Many members played a different part in the ceremony as Bryant Sr. hosted, many spoke, a bell was rung, a trumpet and bagpipes were played, the color guard presented the United States Flag, and many more.

Similar to a majority of the people who were there, Bryant Sr. remembers the fateful event like it was yesterday.

“I felt the impact since Day 1. I was in Big Rock when the first plane hit the World Trade Center tower,” Bryant Sr. said. “I worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections parole. I pulled into get gas. I saw it but they didn’t have a lot of coverage and thought it was a fluke, small plane.

“I worked at the Aurora office and by the time I got to Aurora, there were two planes and it was definitely terrorism. The eerie feeling on the way home that night was there were lines coming from every gas station on Rt. 30 like there wasn’t going to be any more fuel tomorrow. When I got to Amboy, there was a line down the highway waiting to get fuel.

“The panic had already started. I worked around the Bensenville/Elmhurst area for my job in parole. It was really different to not hear any planes flying. It was normal to hear the airplane noise. It wasn’t normal to not hear it.”

Through the years, through wise quotes from wise individuals, and through self reflection, the way to show respect for those who passed away during 9-11 is to never forget and stay unified.

“The best way to remember those people and other members of the past is to work hard to be good people by looking out for your neighbors, your family, and your friends,” Bryant Sr. said. “I think that’s the story of the day. There are people who received illnesses from digging in the pile during 9-11. The firefighters who went into the building were being good people. The people that were on the floors as custodial, security, or office workers directing people off of the floors or out of the building were doing the same thing, looking out for their neighbors and sticking together.

“The catastrophic event unified the country as one speaker said. The question is, how do we get there again without a catastrophic event.”