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Chicago remembers Sept. 11

The Chicago Fire Department ceremonial bell was rung Wednesday to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

An American flag is displayed outside Chicago Fire Department Engine 42 fire station on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.
An American flag is displayed outside Chicago Fire Department Engine 42 fire station on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.
Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

For many of the somber young men lined up in their dress blues downtown Wednesday morning, the memories of what happened surface only as hazy fragments — or they’re nonexistent.

So it was Chicago Fire Battalion Chief Patrick Maloney’s mission — as it is every year at this time — to remind the younger firefighters what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, and why it must never be forgotten.

In front of the Engine 42 firehouse — and with Mayor Lori Lightfoot looking on — Maloney barked out a condensed version of that story.

Mamas with babies strapped to their chests looked on, as did tourists. A huge American flag fluttered beneath a mottled sky. Moist eyes were everywhere.

“As we hand down the memories, it’s a day we don’t want to forget,” said Maloney, who was among a team of 50 Chicago firefighters who arrived in New York the day after the attacks.

Maloney still recalls the greeting from a New York fire chief: “Welcome to hell, Chicago.”

California tourist Beverly Dubrin, 78, was just getting out of bed when the news of the attacks crackled from her radio.

“It’s one of those moments — like (President John) Kennedy’s assassination. You always remember where you were,” Dubrin said.

Lightfoot didn’t speak during the commemoration. Afterward she told reporters: “It’s a day that really transformed our lives in this country. It’s important that we never forget. It’s important that we give respect to our first responders and the people whose lives were lost and those victims whose lives are still being shaped by the events of that morning.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, take part in a 9/11 ceremony outside Chicago Fire Department Engine 42 firehouse
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, take part in a 9/11 ceremony outside Chicago Fire Department Engine 42 firehouse.
Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times
Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Jake Jakubec polishes the ceremonial bell in preparation for a commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The bell will be rung in four sets of five — the New York Fire Department code for a line
Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Jake Jakubec polishes the ceremonial bell in preparation for a commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times