AUGUSTA (AP) – A somber ceremony led by the governor on the sun-drenched steps of Maine’s State House was among the observances across Maine on Monday that paid tribute to the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11 attacks five years ago.

About 100 people gathered at the Capitol’s entrance as legislators and uniformed Maine National Guard, state police and firefighting units looked on.

Haunting notes of bagpipes opened and closed the noon ceremony, led by Gov. John Baldacci who said Sept. 11 is “a day none of us will ever forget.”

“We owe it to those who lost their lives and those who helped save lives to never forget. Our message to those here and abroad should be that we can overcome all obstacles when we are united as a nation,” Baldacci said.

Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis said the nation’s resolve not to back down to terrorism after the attacks made a powerful statement.

“What clearer message can we send to our enemy that they have failed to stop freedom’s march,” said Davis, R-Sangerville.

Tears were in the eyes of some of those who attended the ceremony, one of many across the state. Afterward, participants filed into the State House to view a memorial made with a section of a girder recovered from the World Trade Center in New York.

The concrete-and-steel mobile memorial was the idea of Capt. Michael Clarke of the Bath Fire Deportment, who helped with the recovery effort in New York after the World Trade towers collapsed. Clarke’s request to the New York’s Fire Department for a piece of the debris was one of only 25 honored in the country.

Clarke said the attacks “brought to life how fragile life can be” but he warned against becoming fixated on the events of five years ago.

“We should not make the mistake of living in the past, but learning from it,” Clarke said.

Across the state, U.S. and Maine flags flew at half staff as fire companies held observances to honor the 343 firefighters who died in the terror attacks in New York.

At Bangor’s Central Fire Station, an old chrome bell was tolled in four rounds of five rings each, an alarm call that signifies the death of a firefighter. The morning ceremony included a prayer, a proclamation by the firefighters union and a short video about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the firefighters who died there.

“We know they were in those buildings trying to get out those people who worked in there. It’s just a big hole in your heart,” said Lt. Troy Lare of the Bangor Fire Department.

The Portland Fire Museum was open throughout the day to honor the lost New York firefighters.

Other events included a parade and remembrance ceremony in Westbrook, led by police, fire and rescue units.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Susan Collins recalled how Congress responded to the attacks by creating the Department of Homeland Security and restructuring the nation’s intelligence community. The latest step, she said, is legislation that will bolster port security.

Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the Senate panel that oversees homeland security, said the reauthorization of anti-terrorism legislation that was signed into law this year “contains significant new safeguards that protect the civil liberties we cherish but that the terrorists despise.”

“Five years ago, our nation experienced one of its darkest days and finest hours,” said Collins “It was an attack on the United States, an attack on freedom, an attack on civilization. We must never forget what was lost and what remains at stake.”

Fellow Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe drew attention to the Mainers who were lost in the attacks: Carol Flyzik, Robert Jalbert, Jacqueline Norton, Robert Norton, James Roux, Robert Schlegel and Stephen Ward.

“We are not immune to feeling a full array of emotions, perhaps the strongest being the persistent, gnawing disbelief that such calculated savagery could exist in the world and could be perpetrated so brutally against innocent people,” Snowe’s statement said. “Those feelings intensify when we put faces and names with the long line of those who perished.”

Elsewhere, the so-called “Freeport flag ladies” continued their tradition of waving the Stars and Stripes. Several people including one in an eagle costume joined Elaine Greene and Joann Miller for their ritual down the street from L.L. Bean.

The Orono Fire Department planned readings, music and tolling of bells at the exact times of the attacks.

In Eastport, an “America Supports You Freedom Walk, scheduled for Monday evening, was to start at the Eastport Elementary School and end at the statue of the fisherman downtown. Baldacci was scheduled to speak at an evening remembrance ceremony at Festival Plaza in Auburn.

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