Part of a series of memorials and vigils held over the weekend, American flags dominated the sky Sunday when thousands gathered at a memorial outside the state Capitol to remember those whom perished in the attacks on Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Gov. Scott McCallum organized “Wisconsin’s Salute to America’s Spirit,” a memorial service for Tuesday’s events. Madison police estimated that nearly 5000 people were in attendance.
The Capitol also hosted a candlelight vigil Friday night. Hundreds participated in the candlelight vigil and sang to commemorate those who have died.
Firefighters, police officers and civilians of all ages congregated Sunday on Capitol Square to listen to speakers including McCallum; Monsignor Paul J. Swain; Speaker of the House Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha; State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison; Brigadier Gen. Al Wilkening; Lyle Vander Wyst, president of Wisconsin Professional Police Association; and Rick Gale, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin.
Members of every branch of the armed services joined the mourning and called for unity among Americans.
“On Tuesday morning, infamy was redefined, despicable was redefined, assault was redefined and foreign enemy was redefined,” Wilkening said. “I sense that one term was defined last week and that was the American spirit.”
American spirit was the theme of the service.
“The days, weeks and months ahead will show our enemies and the world that America’s spirit is not undimmed, but burns brighter in these dark hours than it ever has before,” Wilkening said.
Since the tragedy, Americans have united and attempted to be strong in the face of evil.
“The cowards behind the destruction will never understand that America remains, as Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘the last best hope on earth,'” McCallum said. “I love Wisconsin and I know that each of you, all of us here have the same spirit that will not be crushed by the acts of terrorists, this spirit that makes America and Wisconsin great.”
The service opened with a musical prelude by the 132 Army Band and the band continued to participate periodically throughout the service.
In a tribute to the fallen firefighters and emergency workers, a firefighters’ bell ceremony was held. The sound of the bell signifies the beginning of a day’s shift, as well as calls the firefighters to duty and signals the completion of the call. The bell ceremony is a tribute to firefighters who have died while in service.
“To those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their task completed, their task well done, to our brothers in New York, this is your last alarm, you are going home,” Joe Conway, president of the Firefighter’s Local 311 union, said of the emergency workers that gave their lives.