“Freedom isn’t free,” Wheaton Christian Academy Assistant Principal Roger Burgess told about 350 people Wednesday evening at the Dan Shanower Memorial in Naperville.
Burgess was the featured speaker at a gathering that drew local dignitaries and other citizens to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in America.
The memorial in Naperville honors Dan Shanower, a Naperville native and 1979 graduate of Naperville Central High School who died at his work station alongside colleagues when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Another hijacked aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, was scheduled to hit targets in Washington, D.C., before one of Burgess’s former students, Todd Beamer, organized his fellow passengers and stormed the cockpit, eventually forcing the plane to crash into a Pennsylvania field and preventing further casualties in the nation’s capital.
People lined both sides of the Riverwalk, listening in complete silence as Burgess told how Beamer spoke with an operator on the ground, prayed with her and asked her to tell his family he loved them.
The last words the operator heard were, “OK, you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
Of the battle in Flight 93’s cockpit, Burgess said Beamer and his fellow passengers “won the first battle of the new war.”
Shanower was working as a Naval Intelligence officer for the Chief of Naval Operations when the attacks struck.
His parents, Don and Pat, placed a wreath, accompanied by Tim O’Meara, Naperville Firefighter of the Year, and Russ Wolfe, Naperville Police Officer of the Year, during the Wednesday ceremony in honor of the victims of 9/11.
Shanower’s mother credited the nation’s intelligence officials and law enforcement officers for keeping the nation safe in the years since 2001.
“I’m very grateful that there has not been another attack of the magnitude of this one,” she said.
State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) expressed wonder at the passage of time, saying: “It’s hard to believe that 12 years have passed since the horrors of 9/11... it seems like only two years ago. This is a terrific tribute to those who lost their lives, in particular Cmdr. Shanower.”
Deb Rickert, founder of Operation Support Our Troops, wanted people to remember that more than 60,000 American troops were still serving in harm’s way in the War on Terror.
“We are still at war,” she said, urging people to remember all the veterans that had sacrificed their lives in the years since the initial attacks.
‘You get all choked up’
For some in the crowd, the memorial evoked memories of home.
“We’re from New York,” said Mike Gleason, who attended with his wife, Kathy. “It’s a sad day.”
Tom Parker served with the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
“It’s a day of remembrance,” he said. “You get all choked up.”
The event included the presentation of the colors by a combined Color Guard of the Naperville Police and Fire Departments, Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 and American Legion Post 43. The National Anthem was sung by the Naperville Men’s Glee Club, and an invocation was given by Kevin Dolan of the Exchange Club.