AUBURN — “Everyone knows exactly where they were on 9/11,” said Auburn police Chief Jason Moen.

Kristin Arsenault of Hanover was in her high school art class. Marlene and Eugene Keene were eating blueberry muffins. Dawn Pray was teaching a yoga class. EMT Peter MacDonald was dropping a 98-year-old woman off at the Portland International Jetport. Donna Paul was teaching children at Fairview Elementary School, and Capt. Scott Pray was on duty at Auburn Central Fire Station.

“I saw the live footage on television and then got a call and headed out the door,” said Pray.

Pray and the others who recalled the terrorist attacks 20 years ago spoke at a memorial ceremony Saturday morning at Central Fire Station on Minot Avenue in Auburn, with fire calls coming in just as they did on Sept. 11, 2001.

Moments after the annual ceremony began at 8:46 a.m., a call came in for a fire at the Village Trading Post in Minot. Arsenault’s husband, Ryan, and a crew of firefighters bolted to their firetruck and headed to Minot.

A minute later, another call came in for a power line in a roadway; another crew of firefighters quickly left the ceremony.

“What we just witnessed is people among us that are going into harms way,” said Carlene Tremblay as sirens blared in the background. Tremblay was speaking on behalf of Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

“Twenty years ago today, 343 firefighters and 60 law enforcement personnel perished that day while saving lives,” said Auburn Fire Chief Robert Chase. “We are here today so we never forget.”

“It was a punch to all of us,” retired firefighter Don Therrien said about the number of deaths that day.

Therrien said he received an untold number of handshakes and hugs following the 9/11 attacks. “Whenever I was in the grocery store, people would come up and pat me on the back,” he said.

“I miss that comradery,” said Therrien. “Where did that go in the past 20 years?” he asked, referencing heightened anger toward law enforcement personnel and the nation’s political divisiveness.

“That’s why these memorial ceremonies are so important. To get that comradery back,” he said.

While the events of Sept. 11 were certainly not quiet, silence is how many remember that day.

Dawn Pray was teaching a yoga class in a small room next to a gymnasium when the attacks occurred. She stepped out into the gym and knew something was wrong. “It was defining quiet,” Pray said about the room filled with people holding their basketballs.

MacDonald, of Greene, was having dinner at Applebee’s in “dead silence” on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001. “Nobody was talking. Everyone was watching the television,” he said. “It was so weird not hearing the typical restaurant conversations.”

MacDonald said the day made him feel helpless. “My father had passed away shortly before, and for the first time I could not go to him for advice,” he said. “I never experienced being attacked before.” His father, Edmund MacDonald, had fought in World War II.

Eugene and Marlene Keene of Auburn were staying in Boothbay with friends on Sept. 11, 2001. “It was a beautiful day and we were looking right out over the ocean,” said Eugene Keene. The couples were enjoying coffee and blueberry muffins when the phone rang. “You have to turn on the TV. You won’t believe what just happened,” their son said over the telephone.

“It took my breath away,” said Marlene Keene.

Every year on Sept. 11, she bakes blueberry muffins and calls her friend who was sitting on the porch with them 20 years ago. “Hi Rosemary. It’s 9/11.”

“Let September 11 never be forgotten,” said Chief Chase. “Remembering is the most important thing we can do in memory of those that lost their lives that day.”

MacDonald won’t forget.

“I can remember everything about that day,” he said. “I can’t tell you what I had for dinner last night, but I can tell you everything about 9/11.”


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