Westford remembers those lost in the 9/11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan


WESTFORD – On a clear and clear Saturday morning, a rally gathered in the city’s Public Safety Memorial Yard, to honor the 20th anniversary of 9/11 – which many believed did not seem so far away.

With prayers, poetry, songs and silence, a ceremony honored the first responders who died saving people at the crash sites of four planes – hijacked in a terror campaign that left nearly 3,000 dead.

Veterans Agent Ryan Cobleigh presided over the ceremony.

“Today we remember the horrific attacks of 9/11 and the lives lost in the 20 years of war that followed,” Cobleigh said.

“We all watched in silence”

On September 11, 2001, Cobleigh said, “I was in history class at Nashoba Tech and the televisions were on. We all watched in silence as the Twin Towers fell. It is a day that I will never forget.

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Cobleigh said: “As we move forward into the future, we must continue to honor… so that future generations will always know the events of our past and the impact they have had on our country.”

Remember the lives lived

The shockwaves of the attacks were felt everywhere, including in the city. The ceremony paid tribute to two residents who died that day.

Susan MacKay, vice president of TJX Companies, wife and mother of two, was on board American Airlines Flight 11, whose hijackers crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Firefighter David Christiana pulls the final alarm during the 9/11 ceremony in Westford held on September 11, 2021 in the Public Safety Memorial Yard.

James Hayden, vice president and chief financial officer of Netegrity, husband and father of two, was on board United Airlines Flight 175, which struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Their names are carved on two granite benches at the city’s 9/11 Memorial.

The ceremony also honored Sgt. William Woitowicz de Groton, a marine who died on June 7, 2011 in action in Badghis province in Afghanistan.

Woitowicz spent much of his time at Forge Village in Westford and is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in town.

“Like it was yesterday”

Among those present at the ceremony were Mary Fitzgerald of Westford, her daughter, Courtney Schmidt, and Schmidt’s children – twins Bodhi and Stellan Martinez, 1, Caius Martinez, 4, and Louella Martinez, 8.

Fitzgerald said, “I was in Manhattan the day this happened,” Fitzgerald said. “I was walking Fifth Avenue on my way to work.”

Mary Fitzgerald, of Westford, holds her grandson, Bodhi Martinez, during the Westford ceremony in honor of the 20th anniversary of September 11, September 11, 2021 in the Public Safety Memorial Court.  Fitzgerald was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and witnessed the devastation of Ground Zero.

Next, Fitzgerald said a police officer told him about the World Trade Center, struck by two of the four requisitioned hijackers that day. “I saw the smoke,” Fitzgerald said.

As the news unfolded, Fitzgerald said, “I tried calling my brother-in-law in the Pentagon. He was fine.”

Mary Fitzgerald from Westford shared a photo of her visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.  A Ground Zero relic honors the 343 New York firefighters who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Fitzgerald was in Manhattan and witnessed smoke from the plane crash at the World Trade Center.

Fitzgerald wore a 9/11 Memorial and Museum T-shirt in New York City. Fitzgerald described it as a moving place, with artifacts and tributes to the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.

“It’s been 20 years since, but it’s like it was yesterday,” Fitzgerald said. “I must pay homage.”

View of the peace cranes

Westford artist Heather Monahan created “The 9/11 Peace Cranes”, an art installation of 3,000 origami paper cranes, in honor of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The piece was unveiled during from a reception on September 11 and is on display at the entrance of the JV Fletcher Library until September.

The installation work of the artist Monahan, "The September 11 peace cranes," honors the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and is on view at the JV Fletcher Library until September.

The cranes were created in the Japanese “senbazuru” style, which became widely known after the bombing of Hiroshima which ended World War II.

Viewing Artifacts

The Westford Historical Society & Museum, which held a candlelight vigil on September 11, hosts the exhibit “Remembering 9-11”, on display at the museum

In addition to the ceremony, the museum will present an exhibition entitled “Remembering 9-11” at the Westford Museum, Sunday through September 26, 2 pm to 4 pm.

Terrance Kane Jr., a Westford Academy alumnus, brought a patio stone from the wreckage of the Twin Towers in Westford following the 9/11 attacks.  Kane, a first responder, intervened at the site of the attack.  The piece is part of "Remember September 11," on view Sunday through September 26 at the Westford Historical Society & Museum.

The exhibit tells the story of September 11, 2001, through artifacts, personal stories and an illustrated history of how the city recognized this day.

To learn more, visit museum.westford.org.

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