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Crown Point church creates ‘sacred ground’ 9/11 memorial

Mitchell Gibbs left formerly with Crown Point Fire Department Eric Howard with Hammond Fire Department unveil monument honoring all who

Mitchell Gibbs, left, formerly with the Crown Point Fire Department, and Eric Howard, with the Hammond Fire Department, unveil a monument honoring all who died during the terrorist attacks on 9/11 during a service at United Methodist Church marking the 10th anniversary. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 9, 2011 3:15PM

CROWN POINT — Bruno Panning of Schererville wiped away tears as soil from Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., were added to the 9/11 memorial Sunday at First United Methodist Church.

“As such, this is sacred ground to us as Americans,” said the Rev. Tom Shanahan, the church’s pastor, as he consecrated the corner at 325 S. Main St., where the memorial is located, as holy ground.

Panning, a Korean War veteran, like many in the crowd of more than 300 parishioners and citizens, was visibly moved by the ceremony dedicating the memorial. Bells tolled at 8:46 a.m. to mark the time 10 years ago that the first of two hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

Children led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance, and white doves were released.

“It’s a little touching; when I think of all the guys who died …” Panning said, his voice overcome with emotion, the pain of the sacrifice made by so many Americans that day still a raw nerve.

“When I think back at it, I’m still in shock,” said Renee Scearce of Dyer.

Scearce, her husband, Matt, and their children, Skylar, 4, and Julian, 3, were dressed in patriotic clothes for the ceremony that was followed by a call to worship inside the church. She was pleased by the crowd that gathered.

“The day it happened, everybody was so patriotic,” she said. “I’m glad to see everybody is still patriotic.”

Scott Billeck of Crown Point came to the service to show his continued support and that he will not forget the events of that day.

“I feel this is something we can never forget,” he said. “We have to remember who died there and why.”

Crown Point Mayor David Uran said as we watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold live on TV, we were watching history change in a split second. Those events changed America forever.

“This country became stronger, more united than ever,” Uran said.

He said without hesitation, first responders nationwide leaped into action as they do every day.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said although we remember those who died that day, it is important to remember those who continue serving in the military and at home as emergency responders, and to pray for their safety.

“I hope besides remembering those sacrifices, we continue to dedicate our efforts in the future ... to all those who sacrificed their lives 10 years ago,” Visclosky said.

Cpl. Michael Miller of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department was among the first responders who were honored during the church service that included a video program of the tragedy and a recognition breakfast for local first responders who attended.

“I think it’s wonderful that the community comes together to honor first responders and what they do,” Miller said. “It’s unfortunate it takes an event like Sept. 11 to make it all happen.”

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