AUGUSTA — Eighteen years ago, the nation stood still as news of terrorist attacks trickled in from New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Americans remembered those lost during the attacks and the rescue workers who dutifully ran into the chaos — many of whom did not return.

Dozen of first responders, local officials and area residents gathered in a truck bay at Hartford Fire Station in downtown Augusta for a short ceremony to remember the 2,977 people who died Sept. 11, 2001.

Outside of the fire station, a large American flag was suspended vertically from a ladder truck. Two projectors at the back of the bay showed harrowing video from the attacks and tributes to first responders.

Lt. Brian Chamberlain of the Augusta Fire Department led the presentation with remarks about his experience since 9/11. He said he and a small group of local firefighters went down to New York City hoping to help out “in the pile.” Instead, he told the Kennebec Journal, he attended numerous funerals because officials said it was important to “fill churches.” He called it a “humbling experience.”

“I’m a firefighter,” he said. “I want to be in amongst the action. What I actually did, I think, had more effect on the families (of those who died).”

Following the attacks, Sept. 11 was deemed Patriot Day in memory of those who died in the attacks. More than 400 first responders died during the attacks.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a 9/11 ceremony Wednesday at Augusta Fire Department’s Hartford Fire Station. Kennebec Journal photo by Sam Shepherd

Among the speakers Wednesday were Gov. Janet Mills, Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills and Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo.

During her brief address, the governor said it was hard to believe 18 years had passed since the Sept. 11 attacks “because it seems that fresh.” She commended American citizens for reacting to the attacks with “strength and resolve.”

“Today, as we honor the nearly 3,000 friends, family, employees, first responders and fellow Americans lost that day, let us remember the bonds that unite us, even in the darkest of days,” the governor said.

Bridgeo recalled the moment he heard of the attacks as “the single most sobering experience” of his life. He praised the first responders in attendance for their bravery, adding he was confident they would protect the city in the case of a tragedy.

“For the last 18 years, there has been an awareness of those amongst us who give their lives in dedicated services,” he said. “I know in my heart there isn’t one here who wouldn’t move towards that danger.”

Jared Mills, who has worked at Augusta Police Department since 1998,  remembered being called into work after working a night shift Sept. 10, 2001. He said everyone recalls where they were on 9/11, and he watched televised news coverage of the attacks while packing his bag to go back into work.

Following the ceremony, eight new Augusta firefighters and paramedics were sworn in: Anthony Barton, Brittany Corey, Greg Feltis, Chris Giroux, Ben Kent, Mark McMahon, Ryan Morton, Zachary Talmadge and Dave Wilder.

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