‘Say their names’ is the message as Greencastle remembers 9/11

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and thousands more have died in service to the nation and from aftereffects of that day 21 years ago.

Each has a name and a story.

One name, Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Bitner, figured prominently in Greencastle’s commemorative events on Saturday, Sept. 10. A replica of his Hometown Hero banner was carried in the 9/11 Walk, from Eastern Avenue to borough hall, simulating the 110 stories of the World Trade Center that firefighters, police officers, EMS providers and citizens climbed and descended, saving many lives that day.

See the photos:Greencastle remembers Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks with walk and ceremony

Last's year's observance:Greencastle's 9/11 Walk and ceremony commemorate 20th anniversary of terror attacks

The replica also was displayed during a ceremony after the walk at the veterans monument and memorial outside Greencastle Borough Hall. Bitner’s name appears last on the memorial, added after he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 23, 2011, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The 9/11 Walk in Greencastle from Eastern Avenue to the veterans memorial and monument at borough hall symbolized the 110 floors of the World Trade Center that firefighters, police officers, EMS providers and civilians climbed and descended, saving many lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I had the distinct pleasure of watch Ben (Bitner) grow up in this community,” said Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr., who organized the commemorative events. He talked about Bitner going to school and church in Greencastle and joining the Rescue Hose Co. before “raising his right hand to serve this great nation.”

The mayor delivered a request from Bitner’s parents, Roger and Bev, for each person at the ceremony to look up the name of some who lost their life as the result of the terror attacks, read about their life and remember how they lived.

“Say their names,” Thomas said the Bitners urged. After the ceremony, Roger Bitner said the idea is inspired by Wreaths Across America.

Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. spoke at a remembrance ceremony at the veterans memorial and monument outside Greencastle Borough Hall following the 9/11 Walk.

The organization’s mission to remember, honor and teach is carried out each December with a wreath-laying day at Arlington National Cemetery, as well more than 2,500 locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.

“When a volunteer places a wreath on a veteran's grave on National Wreaths Across America Day, we encourage them to speak that veteran's name aloud, thank them for their service and sacrifice, and reflect on that person and their life,” according to the Wreaths Across America website.

Firefighters, police officers, EMS providers, veterans and other local residents gathered at the veterans memorial and monument at Greencastle Borough Hall following the 9/11 Walk to remember lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the ensuing Global War on Terror.

Thomas recognized the veterans, firefighters, EMS personnel and police officers at the ceremony, while state Rep. Paul Schemel talked about the unexpected heroes of 9/11.

“None put on a uniform or expected to be a hero,” Schemel said, talking about people like Benjamin Clark, a chef in the South Tower of the World Trade Center who helped hundreds escape and was last seen helping a woman in a wheelchair, and Thomas Burnett, one of the passengers who rushed the cockpit after Flight 93 was hijacked.

“When bad things happen, good people can make a difference,” Schemel said.

“Say their names and remember how they lived,” said Thomas, who wore a gray Coast X Coast Ride For the Fallen T-shirt with five names on the back: Benjamin Bitner, Adam Brown, Kristoffer Domeij, Marc Small and Ryan Savard. They were the honorees for the ninth annual ride which began Aug. 26 in California and ended Sept. 8 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. wore a Coast X Coast shirt to Greencastle’s 9/11 commemoration on Sept. 10. Greencastle’s Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Bitner was among the Special Operations Forces members remembered during this year’s ninth annual Ride For the Fallen that ended Sept. 8 at Arlington National Cemetery.

The mission of the nonprofit Coast X Coast “is to honor fallen U.S. Special Operation Forces and enhance the quality for life of wounded members.”

The names of the five honored this year — including Benjamin Bitner — were said often as their stories were told at events across the country during the ride.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at