McHENRY – After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mark Justen was tasked with the unimaginable job of flying to New York City and working with the medical examiner to help identify remains of those lost in the World Trade Center.
The McHenry resident spent nine months assisting with the recovery effort. In that time, he became close with the fire chiefs at Firehouse Engine 10, Ladder 10 and received the privilege of lowering a giant flag outside the station, which was located across from the fallen Tower 2.
On Wednesday, that same flag flew high above Veterans Memorial Park in McHenry as it has on each anniversary of Sept. 11. Members of the McHenry Township Fire Protection District and the McHenry Police Department, Mayor Sue Low and dozens of others gathered to remember the tragic day and honor the men and women who serve and protect the city of McHenry.
“I think that the biggest risk to our nation is to become complacent,” said Low, who noted she has received some pushback about the annual ceremony from residents who would rather not be continually reminded of Sept. 11.
“We owe it to all those people who lost their lives to take time out of our day to remember them on this day, and every day,” Low said. “I also feel very strongly for the two young men in our community, as well as all the men and women who have lost their lives since 9/11 fighting the war on terrorism. We owe it to them.”
Wednesday's somber gathering included speeches from Low, McHenry Police Chief John Jones and McHenry Township Fire Chief Tony Huemann and music from the McHenry High School band.
As the U.S. flag flew above the ceremony, Justen reflected on his service to the country and the harrowing months that followed 9/11.
“On Sept. 11, I received my phone call from Washington, D.C., to pack and go. On Sept 12, I was in New York City,” he said. “[The flag] brings back memories of service. Service to the nation. Service to me. Service to our fellow man.”PHOTOS: Sept. 11 remembered at McHenry ceremony