U.S. Navy veteran Bob Buys, Post 140's honored veteran for this year, speaks about the heroism displayed Sept. 11, 2001.
Several hundred people gathered Wednesday at Middleville's Sesquicentennial Pavilion for a Patriot Day observance in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
It was the third year for the observance, which was organized by American Legion Post 140, along with the Village of Middleville and Thornapple Township. Participants in the service stressed the importance of remembering the attack and those who not only lost their lives that day, but those who later died from illnesses resulting from rescue efforts, and those from the military who have given their lives on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan since the attack.
For Capt. Hans Intgroen, a Caledonia Township resident and longtime pilot for American Airlines, 9/11 is highly personal. He recalled flying into New York City just two days before the attack, going over the Hudson River just before landing.
“I remember looking to my right and seeing the World Trade Center and Times Square, all lit up, and the big dark area, which would be Central Park. I thought to myself, 'how very lucky to be sitting in a seat to enjoy these views,'” said Intgroen, a 34-year veteran of the airline industry.
But less than 48 hours later, Intgroen watched on his television as airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center, causing massive fires that led to the skyscrapers collapsing. He felt he had to do something, so he drove to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids to see what he could do to help.
“When I approached the terminal, there was a sea of pilots and flight attendants [who had been diverted to Grand Rapids when planes were grounded] standing on the curb, waiting for hotel vans to try to get to the hotels,” Intgroen said. “I ended up taking eight or nine van loads of people from the airport to their hotels.”
“The terrorists, that day, thought they could change us. They thought they could bully us and make a change in the way we behave, the way we act. [But] Americans continue to be Americans. We wouldn't be changed.”
Circuit Judge Michael Schipper, who served as master of ceremonies for the observance, said it was important to recognize those who lost their lives that day on the four airplanes that were hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists.
“Many times, we hear and talk about the heroes of the military, first responders, firefighters and EMTs that sacrificed so much that day, but let us not forget those who were lost in the planes and buildings, as well,” Schipper said.
U.S. Navy veteran Bob Buys, who was recognized earlier this year by Post 140 as its honored veteran of the year, spoke about some of the heroes who gave their lives that day trying to save others.
“Heroes rarely talk about their actions. They leave that duty to family members or those they helped. Many times, those heroes don't survive,” said Buys, who served for four years as a Navy aviation electrician during the Vietnam War.
Schipper also made a point of recognizing those who have fought and given their lives to the fight against terrorism. “Although years after 9/11, they ran into the firestorm with the same determination of all the heroes of 9/11,” he said.
Other speakers at the service included Middleville Village President Charlie Pullen, a U.S. Army veteran; Post 140 Commander Rich Jenkins; Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf; Chief Randy Eaton of Thornapple Township Emergency Services; and Killian Dudley, a Thornapple Kellogg High School student whose father served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
The program also featured music from the Thornapple Kellogg High marching band and choir, as well as a flyover of five airplanes from the Thornapple Flying Association.
Thornapple Township Treasurer Debra Buckowing, one of the organizers of Patriot Day, credited Post 140 for leading the effort to create the observance back in 2017.
“They enlisted the help of the high school, the village and the township to come together and make this happen,” Buckowing said.
The observance came to an end with the playing of taps by two trumpet players from the band and the singing of “God Bless America.”