Metro Detroiters mark somber day for U.S.

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Metro Detroiters marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks on the U.S. on Sunday by uniting together under blue skies in cemeteries, parks and communities to honor to its victims, those killed in wars past and those still fighting the war on global terrorism.

At White Chapel Memorial Park in Troy, officials unveiled a Global War On Terror memorial Sunday morning, just moments after more than 300 people ran a 5K or 1-mile race to raise money to benefit the Michigan Wounded & Returning Warriors Project.

Race participants ran along winding, American flag-lined roadways inside the cemetery’s 30-acre property, including Bob Jones of Mio, a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran whose parents are buried in the cemetery. Jones, 62, said the event’s flag-raising opening ceremony gave him a moment to reflect on where he was the day of the attacks, which was in northern Michigan with his wife.

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“I run these runs for the guys in Operation Eagle Claw for the guys who didn’t make it back,” Jones said, referring to the U.S. operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter in an attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis. Jones said he ran the operation.

The new memorial, a globe-shape granite piece with a bronze medallion that depicts three service men in action in the war against terror, joins the park's other statuary tributes honoring the sacrifices of WWI, WW II, the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars, and MIA combat troops.

The event drew families, veterans and people from across the region.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson spoke at the unveiling ceremony for the new memorial, reminding the crowd that 17 people with Michigan connections died in the 9/11 attacks. Another 220 men and women from Michigan have died in the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

“Symbols matter. They connect us to event of the past...They help us heal,” said Patterson who is a U.S. Army veteran.

David R. Krall, vice president of White Chapel, said this is the first year for the race and a partnership with the Michigan Wounded & Returning Warriors Project.

“What they do is so wonderful. They send veterans on family retreats to reintegrate them. They do temporary financial assistance, disability claims assistance,” Krall said.

Runner and walkers each received a dog-tag after completing the race. Debbie Meitzner ran along with her sons, Matthew, 11 and Ryan, 13, who were not yet born when the 9/11 attacks occured in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Meitzner’s husband Mike is a Troy fire fighter who was part of a team on Sunday who raised a large American flag over the pathway using two Troy fire trucks allowing runners to pass underneath.

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“It’s a somber day for the country and we let them know there are people out there we need to support still to this day,” Debbie said.

Also on Sunday, the Arab-American Civil Rights League issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to “join with people around the world in affirming our shared values, as well as our determination to defeat those who seek to harm us.”

“Fifteen years later we remain united to reject extremism and the misuse of fanatic ideologies to justify barbaric attacks on innocent civilians, to embrace persons of all religions, and to welcome those seeking safety. We refrain from blaming the many for the actions of a few and insist that freedom need not be compromised in the name of national security,” the statement said.

JChambers@detroitnews.com

Local remembrances

■Gov. Rick Snyder has asked that American flags be flown at half staff on Sunday, Patriot Day, to honor those whose lives were lost 15 years ago.

■Oakland County officials have draped a large American flag on the outside of the west wing of the Circuit Court building.

■The Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial has scheduled a 7 p.m. Sunday ceremony at 1200 North Telegraph, Building 38E, Pontiac.

■A University of Michigan memorial will feature 2,977 American flags, one for each life lost. The display will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Diag, on UM’s Ann Arbor campus.

■Service at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park downtown, 4 p.m. Sunday. If bad weather, ceremony will be moved to First United Methodist Church across from the park.