James Pelletier speaks about the importance of the 9/11 ceremony at Cathedral of the Pines

  • Organizer James Pelletier looks through a book of portraits of Sept. 11 victims as their names are read during last year’s remembrance ceremony at Cathedral of the Pines. STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/4/2023 8:42:13 AM

When he thinks about Sept. 11, 2001, James Pelletier said he thinks about how 1,300 people vanished within minutes, “3,000 people were killed, and 300 million people set aside their differences and became one country.”

That setting aside of differences is something Pelletier, 72, said he can only recall in two other instances – the moon landing in 1969 and the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976 – which is why he believes the annual Sept. 11 remembrance at Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge is so important.

“I believe that kind of unity is always there,” said Pelletier, who volunteered at Ground Zero in the “Return to Normalcy” effort for several months in the wake of the attack and who organizes the Cathedral of the Pines ceremony through Remember to Remember September 11. “It just depends on what the event is.”

Another reason why Pelletier said the remembrance is important is the number of people who are too young to have any memories of the terrorist attacks. As a child growing up in Jaffrey, he remembers how his childhood barber was at Pearl Harbor, and the scars on his legs showed when he wore shorts during the summer. The barber would spend a few minutes remembering and sharing what happened that day.

“That made it very real to me,” he said.

Pelletier had a similar experience talking to men and women who served in Korea and Vietnam.

“I didn’t learn from a book,” he said. “I learned from them. I learned from their stories.”

Pelletier encouraged people to share their memories of Sept. 11 with people who don’t have any, especially children.

“That’s a very important thing,” he said.

Cathedral of the Pines ceremony

The ceremony at Cathedral of the Pines, 10 Hale Hill Road in Rindge, will begin at 8:45 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, rain or shine. The Cathedral of the Pines is a non-denominational sanctuary, and the public is invited. The ceremony takes approximately three hours.

The names of the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attack are read by actress Betsy Palmer, actor Jerry Orbach and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen at the Pentagon, Public Affairs Officer Alan Hicks of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and volunteers at the New York unit of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (now known as Learning Ally). 

Palmer read the names of the victims of Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77 and Flight 93. The volunteers at RFB&D recorded the names of the victims at the World Trade Center and the New York City firefighters. Hicks recorded the names of the officers from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Orbach read the names of the New York City police officers, and Mullen read the names of the Pentagon victims. 

Pelletier produced the recording in collaboration with the NYC-RFB&D, the United Nations and the Pentagon. Production Director Todd Palumbo oversaw the recordings read by Palmer, Orbach, Hicks and the volunteers at NYC-RFB&D in their New York City studios. The U.N. Translation and Editorial Division offered their help with the pronunciation of the victims’ names. 

Volunteers for the ceremony include Jaffrey and New Ipswich Boy Scouts, Jaffrey-Rindge Memorial Ambulance, students and faculty of Franklin Pierce University, Dublin Fire Department and others.

The theme of the memorial is from Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” 


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