PHOENIXVILLE - Almost 400 people mourned the events of 911, while they celebrated a future of hope at Reeves Park on Saturday.
The Sixth Annual Day of Remembrance, Day of Hope predates the events of Sept. 11, 2001 with ceremonies marking the third anniversary of what one speaker called "an attack against us" and another said was the "most horrific day of violence ever in the United States."
The afternoon event was sponsored by the Phoenixville Area Violence Prevention Network and held on a beautiful late summer day.
As keynote speaker, former U.S. war tested veteran George Frazier, and Director of Technology for Phoenixville Area School District, spoke about those who had "given the ultimate sacrifice," including local Marine David Bernstein, along with millions of others who had died for their country.
He urged the crowd, many of whom sported American flags, to "stop and consider the freedom that we possess."
Frazier told those assembled to, "Thank those who serve near and far" and for everyone to "serve as a hero to someone in need - at the right place and time."
Much of Frazier's presentation centered on his military experiences, including the comfort that he saw U.S. soldiers give their enemies immediately after life an death warfare.
"Americans are welcome to help others regardless of events," he said.
The ceremony concluded with a march to the western edge of the park, site of the Vietnam War Memorial.
Phoenixville Area School District Superintendent, David Noyes, Ed.D. along with Sophie Vance, who he referred to as the "Littlest Volunteer" led those in attendance to the memorial.
In a touching moment, Noyes called for the children at the event to lead the walk, before placing a wreath at the memorial.
"We pray for peace, but especially for the welfare of the children," said Noyes.
Phoenixville Area Health Foundation CEO and President Lou Beccaria presented the Peacemaker Award to the Phoenixville Police Department. Corporal William Thornton accepted for his fellow officers.
Thornton asked for support of a new police initiative, Cops and Citizens for Justice. Thornton hopes that borough citizens can join Philadelphia as a sister city for "our opportunity to be involved and join in the conflict resolution." Sept. 15 will mark the organization's first meeting at Orions Community's, Inc. on Bridge Street.
Three school age winners of the "Increase the Peace" essay contest read from their work.
Pa. Rep Carole Rubley, R-157 introduced Schuylkill Elementary School Student Ashley Westerman. The third grader loves her cat Tabby who purrs when she brushes or scratches the feline, enjoys math and shopping and hopes to become a veterinarian.
"I can increase the peace by being kind to everyone, even people who are not nice to me," wrote Westerman.
Pa. Sen. Bob Thompson, R-19, introduced award winning 11-year-old Renaissance Academy student Dominique Vinson. The sixth grader enjoys basketball , eating chicken, chips and dip and loves music.
"Drugs in Phoenixville are causing too much drama and chaos," read Vinson from the podium " That is why drugs need to go bye-bye and leave the town of Phoenixville, Pa."
Edward Schmid represented Congressman Jim Gerlach and presented an award and check to Spring-Ford High School student Heather Johnson.
The 16-year-old is a lifeguard at the Phoenixville Area YMCA and gives swimming lessons. She enjoys photography and reading.
"So as a student, I can help to increase the peace in my high school by just watching out and listening for fights that might happen, and then letting a teacher know that something is wrong," read the tenth grader. "This could prevent the fight itself, in school grounds at least."
Founding member of the Phoenixville Area Violence Prevention Network and Director of the Community Education and outreach for the Phoenixville Hospital, Anna Mae Galbraith, read from a long list of community partnerships.
"We go everywhere where people want to hear our mission ... to make a more peaceful community," said Galbraith.
The Phoenixville Area Violence Prevention Network, via Janet Hunter, Director of the Stepping Stone Education Center, presented a $500 donation to the Phoenixville Public Library.
Children's Librarian Paul Giovenetti accepted the award to be used to purchase anti-violence books and other media.
"These are issues that people in our community are dealing with and we give them the tools to make their lives even better," said Hunter.
Phoenixville resident Lynn Pike Hartman said that she was especially moved by keynote speaker Frazier's remarks.
"Sometimes we take for granted what we have," said Pike Hartman. "We live in the best place in the whole world."
Borough Council President Jim Lolli said that the ceremony was held during an "appropriate time of the year" to recognize the events of 911.
"This remembrance gives us the opportunity to do some soul searching for peace and shows us that America is an example for the world," said Lolli.
Rubley said following the ceremony that we will "never forget" 911.
"This shows the need to move forward and work on peaceful solutions to our problems," said Rubley. "I especially enjoy the involvement of the children because they are our future."
School District board member Bill Mea was proud of district employee Frazier and was interested "to learn about his experiences and dedication."
Peggy Gusz of the Violence Prevention Network and Kathy Johns shared a quiet moment together at the memorial following the ceremony after the crowds had thinned.
Gusz was moved by the children who led the march to the memorial.
"It caught me when they gathered together," said Gusz. "The children said it all.
"I can't praise everybody enough who had a part in this, especially Kathy Johns," said event organizer Gusz.
Phoenixville Boy Scout Troop #58 served as Color Guard Advance and Retreat Colors. Girl Scouts of Freedom Valley distributed flags and programs.
The Valley Forge Christian Quartet led the National Anthem.
The Rev. Janie Wead, Chair of the Intercultural Ministries Department at Valley Forge Christian College gave the Invocation.
"Help us to remember Lord that life is short," she told those assembled in both Spanish and English.
Interfaith Choir Director Mib Campbell arranged a choir and ensemble for a Medley of African and American prayers.
The finale music was "The Lord Bless you and Keep You" by John Rutter, and sung by the Interfaith Choir.
Poet Anthony Gulotta recited his poem "Finding a Way to Shed Our Claws."
"If we can stop violence in this country it will serve as an example for others," said Gulotta.