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Suburbs mark 9/11 with tears, prayers, festivals, good deeds
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff

Dee Dee Johnson of Barrington, center, with friends Nancy Miller, left, of Barrington Hills and Diane Bennett of Barrington, will mark the 9/11 anniversary by joining today's Freedom Fest Run in Barrington to support families of deployed troops.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Dee Dee Johnson of Barrington, center, with friends Nancy Miller, left, of Barrington Hills and Diane Bennett of Barrington, will mark the 9/11 anniversary by joining today's Freedom Fest Run in Barrington to support families of deployed troops.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/10/2010 1:25 PM | Updated: 9/10/2010 11:57 PM

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Addison firefighters plan to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks privately, with a silent pause, maybe a prayer, and then a return to work.

Wheeling firefighters organized a daylong family festival to raise money for children's burn camps.

A U.S. Marine's wife will race as part of a fundraising festival in Barrington to support soldiers' families. Hanover Park will host its first-ever Sept. 11 memorial ceremony at the main fire station.

"I didn't know anybody in the towers or anything like that," said Hanover Park resident Ann Delort, who helped organize the ceremony. "I just feel it's something that never should be forgotten."

Whether it's a quiet moment of reflection or a flag-filled public ceremony with music and speeches, people across the suburbs will use Patriot Day to do good deeds, reflect on the day's significance, and mourn the loss of nearly 3,000 people in the attacks - and roughly 4,500 soldiers who perished in the war that followed.

Just as with any tragedy or death, everyone - and every suburb - marks the day in its own unique way, some more outward and emotional than others. But no one can forget the horror and fear they felt nine years ago this morning.

Husband in Afghanistan

Barrington dance studio owner Dee Dee Johnson jokes that she's more of a whiner than a runner. But with her husband, U.S. Marine and former Round Lake Park/Hainseville police Chief Bruce Johnson, now doing police work in Afghanistan, she decided to train for her first race, the Family Freedom Festival 9.11 Run. The race, being held this morning in Barrington, precedes a fundraising festival from noon to 10 p.m. today in the Metra lot to provide support for soldiers' families.

Dee Dee now knows how vitally important that support is. She said it's been emotionally tough to have her husband away, especially for milestones like her son's high school graduation this year. She even misses the sound of the whistle he makes when he walks in the door after work each day.

But she feels strongly that he's doing an important job, and knows he wants to be there to serve his country.

"It's been motivating for me to say, 'I'm doing something,' because there's helplessness. There's not a lot I can do for him here," she said, noting that they've sent a lot of care packages filled with pens, paper and Trader Joe's oatmeal raisin cookies. "I'm seeing how much this stuff means to the troops. So I've been telling people, you can agree or disagree with what we're doing over there, but you can come to the event and say, yeah, we support the troops. We support their families."

Dee Dee, her children, and a few friends will wear "Miles for Marines" T-shirts with Bruce's picture during the run and walk.

"Could he have said no, I don't want to go? He would have never said no. That's not who he is," Dee Dee said. "When you're a Marine, you don't say no. You say, 'When do you need me and where?' Because that's what you do."

Nine years later, the first ceremony

Every year, Ann Delort would watch the Sept. 11 anniversary coverage on the news and specials on The History Channel, wishing her own village did something to mark the anniversary.

So when a veterans committee formed 11/2 years ago, she joined the group and spearheaded a plan for a memorial.

"This is always something I've felt very strongly toward, and I finally thought, we've got to do something," she said. "The police and fire departments don't want self recognition. But something like this opens your eyes to the commitment they make to their jobs. They go into their jobs every day not knowing what to expect, or how it's going to end."

Hanover Park's 9/11 Fallen and Police and Firefighter Remembrance begins at 8:30 a.m. today at the main fire station at 6850 Barrington Road and will feature speeches by local legislators, music performances ranging from a gospel choir to bagpipes, and a presentation of wreaths. The public is invited to attend.

"Depending on people's way of mourning, some people will not show up. Some people will do a moment of silence in their home. Everyone grieves differently," she said. "I'm gonna be a total basket case. I've been getting get choked up at every meeting, just thinking about it."

Silent memorials

Sometimes it's difficult for firefighters to acknowledge Sept. 11 and the many firefighters who died, because it reminds them about the dangers of their job, says Hanover Park Fire Chief Craig Haigh.

"Ceremonies are hard to go to," says Haigh, who lost one of his closest friends in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I prefer just to work ... and get through the day," he said.

That's a common sentiment among firefighters, regardless of their connection to 9/11, said Terry Cox, retired Lake Forest fire chief and president of the Illinois Professional Firefighters Association.

He said firefighters are humble, which is why he has to "drag them out" for IPFA medals of honor for their good work.

Some, like Wheeling, focus their memorials on a cause. An 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. pig roast at Market Square Restaurant, 600 W. Dundee Road, will send young burn victims to camp.

Others would rather just keep busy at work, Cox said. "On Sept. 11, they'll say, 'OK, I'll give it a couple of minutes and forget about it,' because there's something else coming down the pike."

Cox said the job title - firefighter - is not really an accurate description.

"Only 5 percent of our time is spent fighting fires," he said. "We're the first line of defense for any type of disaster, whether it's a car accident or biological warfare or below-ground rescues. And 999 out of 1,000 times we solve the problem."

New York state of mind

A few weeks after the terrorist attacks, Glendale Heights Village President Linda Jackson flew to New York and stood near ground zero, staring in shock at the rubble in front of her.

"It was still smoking," she said. "Being there ... you just felt it."

At that moment, she decided the village would always mark this anniversary. A solemn, silent parade of emergency vehicles, with only their flashing lights on, will head for Veterans Memorial Park for a large, public candlelight ceremony at 7:15 p.m.

Jackson's passion remains as strong as it was in 2001, even though she has no personal connection to the tragedy.

Jackson says it's important to educate youth about the attacks.

"It's what happened. People need to remember," she said, vowing to continue the ceremonies as long as she's village president. "I've had a lot of people come up to me and say, 'Please don't stop doing it.'"