Missourians pay tribute to victims of 9-11

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- In public ceremonies and private moments, residents across Missouri took time Monday to reflect on the 2001 terrorist attacks while paying tribute to their victims.

The attacks might have occurred nearly 1,000 miles away, but residents here said the effect was anything but distant. Some lost friends and relatives, while others have family members in the military mobilized in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It just changed everything," said Beth Lampen, 49, an advertising saleswoman in St. Louis. Her 24-year-old son, Michael Lampen, joined the Army after Sept. 11 and is serving in Afghanistan.

"He felt like he had to do something about it, like he had to react," Beth Lampen said.

"I feel like if [the attacks] didn't happen, he never would have joined the Army," she said. "I could drive myself crazy thinking about him all the time. But I just have to give it to God."

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay began the day with a somber ceremony attended by firefighters, police officers and city workers. The flag at City Hall was lowered to half-staff and Slay reminded the crowd that roughly 400 emergency workers died Sept. 11 in the line of duty.

"Let us not forget those brave individuals who gave their lives trying to save their fellow citizens," Slay said.

In the suburban town of O'Fallon, residents placed red carnations and American flags on a warped piece of steel taken from the wreckage of the World Trade Center and displayed in the lobby of City Hall.

For others, the day was marked by quiet reflection.

Christina Johnson said she was at work Monday when radio coverage of the Sept. 11 anniversary took her back to the moment five years ago when she first learned of the attacks.

She was sitting in a University City classroom when the news came over the intercom. A junior in high school, she was terrified. But that gave way to calmness, and soon a desire to serve. Now 21, she's a student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis majoring in human services -- a field she says will teach her more about politics and helping residents in her community.

"In a weird way, it kind of changed my decisions in what I want to do," Johnson said Monday as she waited for a bus in St. Louis. It helped her realize "just the fact that I want to help other people."

In the rural Ozark County seat of Gainesville in southern Missouri, outgoing fire chief and newly elected mayor Terry Sheppard said memories of Sept. 11 have an impact even among his small force, which took part in a ceremony Sunday.

"Of course fire service is just a big brotherhood, basically. We all feel the pain of each other," said Sheppard, whose fire department was one of many across the country to get federal grants after the attacks. The department was given $200,000 for better protective gear and communications.

In Jefferson City, about 200 people turned out for a commemoration on the Capitol lawn.

Speakers praised the sacrifice of those in the military and remembered those who died in the attacks. More than 1,100 members of the Missouri National Guard are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 7,000 have served in the war on terror at some point.

Gov. Matt Blunt said the attacks showed the nation's resolve, and that citizens rise to the occasion in times of tragedy.

"Without a doubt, that day did change history," he said. "Fortunately that day also gave us a chance to show a watching world that we are a great nation and that our resolve is not easily shaken."

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