Brian Shane was 7 years old when the planes hit the towers. He remembers not understanding the explosions and the fires lighting up the television screen he and his classmates huddled around at school. He remembers his mother repeatedly trying and failing to get more information about whether his father, David, a New York City Fire Department paramedic, had gone into the blaze. He remembers when his dad finally came home three days later, covered in dust – just like he would nearly every day for the next nine months.

“I don’t want people to forget,” said Brian Shane, now 29. “Because I don’t.”

Brian and David Shane, 54, who now live in Lyman, were among the roughly 50 residents and Portland officials who gathered Monday morning with members of the police and fire departments at Fort Allen Park in an act of quiet remembrance, commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Portland’s youngest firefighters are too young to remember the terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington. But the heroism of those who threw themselves into danger – especially the 400 New York City firefighters, police officers and Port Authority officers who died when the towers collapsed on Sept. 11 – remains central to the self-identity of first responders, said Fire Chief Keith Gautreau.

Portland Fire Chief Keith Gautreau carries a wreath at the 9/11 memorial at Fort Allen Park on Monday morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“These brave people, these heroes, responded immediately without hesitation to save as many lives as possible,” Gautreau said. “They ran toward the towers, not away, because it was their duty. Today we lower our flags as a country to pay tribute to all those who lost something 22 years ago.”

Gautreau also reminded the crowd of Portland’s unique connection to the attacks; two of the men responsible – Mohamed Atta of Egypt and Abdulaziz al-Omari of Saudi Arabia – flew out of the Portland International Jetport on the morning of Sept. 11, hours before they hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston and crashed it into the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m.


Cheryl Leeman, who was Portland’s mayor in 2001, said the city’s connection to the hijackings was a source of pain in the aftermath of the attacks. But she said she was proud of the way residents from all walks of life and political backgrounds rallied together around their shared identity and the way Maine’s first responders supported their comrades in New York.

“This is a very emotional event for me every year,” she said. “It couldn’t be more important that we do not forget 9/11 ever.”

Twenty-two years to the minute after Flight 11 struck the North Tower, those gathered at Fort Allen Park stood in silence as Gautreau and Police Chief Mark Dubois laid two wreaths at the city’s 9/11 memorial to honor the victims.

Portland police and fire departments held a memorial ceremony at Fort Allen Park on Monday morning to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Brian Shane did not lose his father in the attacks. But heavy exposure to dust while pulling bodies out of the ruins of the twin towers caused David Shane to develop terminal cancer and forced him to retire five years later, he said. Each morning David wakes up is another day he has outlived his initial prognosis, another day he promises himself to make the most of the time he has left. He sometimes shares his story with students at the Sanford Vocational Technical Center, passing along his memory of not only the attacks, but the way the country came together in their aftermath.

“In New York City normally, you could be lying on the sidewalk and people would just walk over you,” he said. “After 9/11, everyone in the country was brought together, and it was like a whole different atmosphere.”

Gautreau, too, recalled the overwhelming sense of unity in the months following the attacks. Even as political divisions have become as entrenched as at any point in recent decades, he said he hoped celebrating the actions of men like David Shane and his fallen comrades could push Americans to put their differences aside.

“That’s what I like about it,” he said. “We’re not thinking about any of that stuff when we’re thinking about this.”

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