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Flag from Ground Zero unfurled as Phoenix commemorates 9/11

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PHOENIX – John Buneta said he hadn’t attended a 9/11 commemoration before Wednesday. It was too difficult, he said, after working for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I tried to avoid them because I don’t like getting emotional in front of people,” said Buneta, who now lives in Phoenix.

But he decided to attend the memorial service at Phoenix City Hall, sharing a flag that flew over Ground Zero.

As a lone trumpet played “Taps,” an honor guard of first responders unfurled the flag, giving it what Buneta said was its first public display. They carried it away with bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.”

“I thought I could get through it without getting teary-eyed, but I couldn’t,” said Buneta, who received the flag for his work and dedication following 9/11.

The ceremony also included the ringing of a bell and a 21-gun salute.

“The loud command to fire followed by the sharp crack of the rifle being fired is a startling contrast to the quiet, swirling, perhaps turbulent, emotions of grief and loss,” said Chris Ketterer, a Phoenix Fire Department deputy chief who led the ceremony.

“When a firefighter had died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that solemnly announced the passing of a fallen comrade,” Ketterer said. “For our fallen brothers of 9/11, the sounding of the bell, a special FDNY signal of five rings, four times each, represents the end of their duties.”

“Every individual, every life lost on 9/11 were soldiers of democracy, soldiers of justice, who said we will never forget this incident,” Police Chief Daniel Garcia said, “and you will never crush the spirit of our United States.”

Councilman Michael Nowakowski said the first responders who protect Phoenix “have so much courage and compassion and bravery.”

“And they display that every day when they put on that uniform and when they go to work to protect us here in this great city of ours,” he said.

Kevin Kalkbrenner, assistant chief of the Phoenix Fire Department, said it’s important to remember the acts of courage and bravery on 9/11.

“We should look to that to define us as Americans,” he said after the ceremony. “We are a country that worries about its own and puts a high value on each others’ lives.”