FOLLANSBEE - Follansbee officials and residents remembered the tragedy and heroism of Sept. 11, 2001, while recognizing local emergency first responders and service members at a program Tuesday at Follansbee Park.
Former mayor Tony Paesano, who served as the key speaker, said he, like many, will never forget the events of that day and knew soon after it occurred, "it was absolutley necessary we have a program honoring those who were killed in the World Trade Center towers and at the Pentagon and the first responders. There were a lot of firefighters and police who also were killed that day while responding."
After stepping down from the mayor's office, Follansbee City Council named Paesano mayor emeritus, a position that has involved presiding over various city events, including the 9/11 anniversary services he initiated.
9/11 REMEMBERED — Follansbee officials and residents remembered the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a program near the city’s new veterans monument at Follansbee Park. Among the many participating were, from left, Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano, Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Rudy McAllister and Mayor David Velegol Jr. -- Contributed
"It's been 11 years in a row. We're very proud of that," he said, following the service, which included the placing of a wreath, in memory of fallen first-responders, at the city's new veterans park by Follansbee Police Chief John Schwertfeger, who also retired in August as director of the Brooke County Ambulance Service.
Paesano noted Follansbee native Victor Ceglie Jr. was among Washington, D.C., firefighters who responded to the attack on the Pentagon.
Paesano said members of the ambulance service, city police and Follansbee and Hooverson Heights volunteer fire departments were invited as special guests for the program.
Ironically, some firefighters couldn't attend because they were undergoing training required of them.
Also honored were the many who have served in the military, past and present.
Special recognition was given to Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Rudy McAllister, a Follansbee native who has served in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve for more than 30 years, during which he was deployed for Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Iraqi Freedom as well as southwest Asia.
A 1977 graduate of Brooke High School and 1982 graduate of West Liberty State College, McAllister now resides in Weirton, where he serves as pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church.
He served previously as pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Ohio and as assistant pastor of other churches.
A father of six and grandfather of five, McAllister continues to serve the Air Force Reserve as a member of the 911th Airlift Wing in Pittsburgh.
He said any American who visited another country such as those in the Middle East would have a greater appreciation for the freedoms and way of life enjoyed here.
"There are a lot of good folk in the Middle East who don't agree with the terrorists but in the situation they're in, it's forced upon them," McAllister said.
He said reconstruction efforts by U.S. troops and local officials help to change negative perceptions of the U.S. by many in the Middle East.
McAllister said he has great respect for the veterans who served before him and often visits them at nursing homes, places U.S. flags on the graves of veterans and attends programs marking Memorial Day, Veterans Day and 9/11.
News of such observances offers encouragement to troops serving abroad, he said, and it still inspires him now that he's home.
"Every time I go to a ceremony, it puts a lump in my throat because it lets you know people appreciate what you do," McAllister said.
Patriotic music was provided by Brass Unlimited, a brass ensemble including local resident Lou Casini and other members of the Vince Villanova Big Band.
Also participating in the program were Mayor David Velegol Jr., the Tri-State Young Marines, who raised the U.S. flag; Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, which delivered a military salute; children with the Follansbee Christian Center, a ministry of the Follansbee Christian Assembly, Brooke High School senior Brent Kimball, who sang; and local clergy Joe Cuomo of Christian Assembly Church, Monsignor Paul Hudok of St. Anthony Catholic Church, Colleen Molinaro of Follansbee Presbyterian Church and Dan Cooper of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ.
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