The Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial Park on Raccoon Road in Austintown was full to capacity on Wednesday as hundreds showed up for the annual ceremony to remember the fallen heroes of Sept. 11, 2001. This year's event had two special guests that made the trip from New York City.
New York City firefighters Nicholas Mincone and Michael Kahlau made the trip to Austintown in Engine 257, which was among the ones that responded to the collapsed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The engine had been purchased and rebuilt as a tribute to those who lost their lives that day.
Mincone said, "We showed up after the second tower came crashing down. We knew on that day that nothing would ever be the same again."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
It took Austintown and Canfield’s two large ladder trucks to hoist the giant American Flag during the 9/11 Memorial ceremony on Wednesday. The 9/11 Memorial Park was filled to capacity with residents and safety force personnel who came to remember the sacrifices made 12 years ago.
The two men had heard of three memorial sites that had been constructed in other states and they were very happy with the Austintown park dedicated to their fallen comrades.
"This park is amazing," Kahlau said. "I thought the memorials were more New York only. I didn't expect to find something like this here in Ohio."
That made Austintown resident Pat Connolly feel very honored. He was one of the original local men who began the project shortly after 2011. He was able to assemble a dedicated committee and when the Austintown trustees approved giving him the space at trustees park, the project quickly became a reality that included steel beams from the Twin Towers, blocks from the Pentagon, and dirt from the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Polished stones were added as tributes to the police and fire personnel who lost their lives that day. The park was finished with a memorial garden and a small chapel.
Over the prior weekend, Connolly said there was a small army of landscapers who work hard to make the park perfect for the event.
"We had an army here over the weekend," Connolly said. "It just goes to show that if you surround yourself with good people, you can accomplish anything."
Austintown firefighter Fred Marcum, who organized the ceremony was also pleased at the turnout and participation for the event.
"I feel that everything came together," he said. "We have a great committee and everything was perfect."
After the ceremony was over, those attending could visit the NYC fire engine and greet the two NYC firefighters or a special guest from Canfield. Lisa Kleinhandler took part in the ceremony to remember NYC firefighter Michael Vernon Kiefer, who lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001. He was on Engine 280-Ladder 132 out of Brooklyn, where Kleinhandler worked at the time. She moved to Canfield six years ago, but said she will never forget the young man whose life was cut short.
On Thursday, Marcum took the two New York City guests to lunch before they left for their return trip to the Big Apple. Kahlau will be returning to the Fire Department of New York where he is assigned to Engine 262. Mincone had served on Engine 257 during 9/11 and had made the move to the FDNY Firefighter II fire boat two years ago.