AUBURN | The day terrorists attacked the United States started out beautifully, with a warm sun hanging bright in a blue, cloudless sky.
The picturesque autumn weather gave no hint of the horror that would soon stun the world — of the four planes that would crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Twelve years later, Sept. 11, 2001 remains indelibly seared into Americans' minds and hearts. And this year, Auburn paused to remember those who lost their lives.
Local emergency responders, politicians and residents ventured to Memorial City Hall's south lawn just before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, gathering around Auburn's 9/11 memorial. The morning was sunny and warm — much like it was 12 years ago.
Mayor Mike Quill started off the commemorative ceremony by sharing his recollections of Sept. 11.
"Twelve years ago, the world changed," he said.
Quill and his fellow firefighters were in the midst of their morning meeting at the Auburn Fire Department when one firefighter burst into the room and shared some troubling news: a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower.
Soon after, Quill said they watched the news as the three other attacks unfolded — standing in AFD's kitchen surrounded by "deadly silence."
"We all wanted to do something," he said, "but we had no idea what."
As the firefighters attended memorial ceremonies and donated blood, Quill said they heard stories describing the bravery of New York City's emergency responders.
"It was said that firefighters were taking felt-tipped pens and writing their Social Security numbers on their arms and their hands, knowing full well they more than likely were not coming out," he said.
And as the years pass, the mayor told attendees he has faith that those heroic actions will stay fresh in Americans minds — that the nearly 3,000 people who perished did not die in vain.
"There's an old saying: you're not dead until everyone forgets you," Quill said. "By this turnout here and across the country, I'm sure these brave men and women, along with the civilians who lost their lives, will never be forgotten."
The Rev. James Enright spoke next, reminding attendees to use the lessons learned on 9/11 to make a better world.
In the wake of the carnage of Sept. 11, Enright said Americans realized how important it is to unite and let loved ones know how much they matter. More than one decade after the attacks, he encouraged listeners to implement that lesson.
"To make this a true day of remembrance, let us reach out, as happened on that day 12 years ago," Enright said. "Make this a day in which we continue that tradition, and remember those who passed, and remember those who live."
At 8:46 a.m., the moment hijackers crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center 12 years ago, attendees fell silent as Old Wheeler tolled.
After the bell rung, members of the Auburn Fire Department and the Auburn Police Department stood at attention as AFD Chief Jeff Dygert and APD Chief Brian Neagle placed a wreath in front of Auburn's Sept. 11 memorial.
After a trumpet played taps, the emergency responders headed back to work — returning to what Enright said was the nation's duty.
"Provide for the common good," Enright said. "This is our call."