WATERVILLE — Judy Cabana sat Wednesday on the granite steps of the amphitheater at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls, explaining why she was attending the candlelight vigil to commemorate those who died Sept. 11, 2001, and those who responded to the tragedy.

“I came here because it was such an event embedded in my mind and how horrific it was,” said Cabana, now 80.

She recalled how she was upstairs at her Waterville home 18 years ago and her now-late husband, Lee, who served many years as chairman of the Waterville Board of Education, called out to her.

Community members sing the national anthem during Wednesday’s ceremony to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The group is shown along the RiverWalk in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

“He said, ‘Come down here!'” Cabana said. “He said, ‘Look,’ and I said, ‘What TV show is that?’ He said: ‘That’s not a TV show. That is happening right now.’ I said: ‘Oh, my God, I don’t believe it. We’re being attacked.’ I came to honor those who were first responders and those who died during the attack.”

Like Cabana, those who turned out for the vigil on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 remembered where they were the day nearly 3,000 people were killed as planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the U.S. Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

Since then, hundreds of emergency responders who worked at the Trade Center site have become ill and died from exposure to chemicals.

Waterville and Fairfield firefighters, including Fairfield Chief Duane Bickford, Delta Ambulance workers, legislators and others took part in the vigil Wednesday, hosted by Ward 7 resident Bob Vear.

Gulls flew over the still waters of the Kennebec River as the evening sun was reflected on former mill buildings across the river in Winslow. Firefighters and Delta workers stepped to the front of the stage to the sounds of a bagpipe recording of “Amazing Grace.”

Attendees sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Vear recounted the events of 9/11 as music played in the background.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said it was good to see so many people at the event.

“We don’t do enough of this,” he said.

Alyssa Bofia, 11, of Waterville, holds a candle during a ceremony Wednesday to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The ceremony, which drew about 50 people, was held along the RiverWalk in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Isgro said he was leaving a statistics class at the University of Maine at Farmington when the attacks of 9/11 were happening, and students were gathered around televisions. Someone said a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers, he recalled.

“This story is only special because each and every one of us today has a story just like that, because there’s nobody who doesn’t remember what they were doing that day,” he said.

The country came together and people put aside their differences, Isgro said, but now, 18 years later, people have forgotten that spirit of togetherness.

“We’ve forgotten that one America,” he said, adding if people continue to pray for God’s blessing on America, the country will get through it.

“It’s time for a gut check,” Isgro said. “Let’s really never forget because we are one people and one nation.”

Speakers included state Sen. Scott Cyrway, District 16; state Rep. Colleen Madigan, District 110;  state Rep. Bruce White, District 109; Subdeacon Steve Crate of St. Maronite Catholic Church; and the Rev. Patrick Finn of Corpus Christi Parish.

Before the ceremony started, White and his wife, Doreen, sat in the amphitheater, remembering where they were 18 years ago.

Bruce White said he was at China Middle School doing computer support when he got a call from his daughter and son, who were in Boston. He said they were in a state of shock because of threats of a chemical attack on that city.

Doreen White said she was teaching fifth grade at Temple Academy in Waterville, where the students were outside for recess.

“We were in the teachers’ room,” she recalled. “Somebody just burst in and said there’s a plane that hit one of the towers. We had parents frantically calling.”

Bruce White said he still carries the lessons of 9/11 with him.

“As I think of it now,” he said, “it makes you realize how important family, friends and community are.”

At the end of the ceremony, those in attendance lit and held candles as music played in the background.

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