“Today is a solemn day,” Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said as police and firefighters gathered at Fireman’s Park to mark the 17th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terror attacks that left 2,996 people dead. But he also offered a message of hope for the future.

Steve Hagerty.

Hagerty said the world needs more “love, empathy and kindness” so that there will be “less terror, less death and less sadness.”

Bad things do happen, “like school shootings, white-nationalist rallies and massive hurricanes,” Hagerty said. “Yet the human spirit is stronger than a terrorist attack, a hate group and mother nature.”

Hagerty said that over two decades of working as a consultant on disaster recovering efforts, he’s learned that “Love is stronger than hate, diversity — with all its challenges — is stronger than uniformity, and that a strong social fabric can help us heal and repair the broken parts of our community and our world.”

“I know we have the power to change attitudes and to root out hate,” the mayor said. “And if we work on that every day, that is the best tribute we can give to those who perished on this fateful day 17 years ago.”

Dov Hillel Klein.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein reminded the crowd at the park on Maple Avenue that firefighters and police officers run into danger, trying to save lives, every day, because they are so committed to our community and to making our world a better place.

Laura Fine.

State Rep. Laura Fine said that as a result of the attacks that killed so many at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon outside Washington and on a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, “We were shaken to the core and our lives were forever changed.”

Jan Schakowsky.

U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky said the attacks that day and the deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed have become the defining tregedy of our era.

In addition, she said, more than 600 first responders who survived the initial attacks have died in the years since from diseases contracted during the recovery efforts.

“We must ensure that the first responders and veterans of our military have the highest quality care that they deserve,” Schakowsky said.

She added, “We must remain vigilant to work against the violence and the hate witnessed 17 years ago and build a world in which people of all beliefs and backgrounds can live in peace together.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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