WASHINGTON — Most of the estimated 300 students who will participate in the city's 18th annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Sunday weren't born when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept, 11, 2001.
"It's great that students always take part in the ceremony because they get a look into what happened on that day in 2001 and learn what first responders do for us every day," said Brett Adams, a member of the eight-person committee that organized this year's ceremony.
The Veterans Memorial in Washington Park, which has a Vietnam-era AH-1 Cobra helicopter as its centerpiece, once again is the venue for the ceremony, which will begin at 5 p.m. with a quarter-mile walk in the walking trail in the park.
What's new this year? A dove release at 5:35 p.m. And there will be about 30 to 40 motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Riders and American Legion Riders.
"We try to keep a lot of the same things year after year because people expect them," Adams said. "If we do add something, the question is, 'Does it fit?'"
An OSF HealthCare Life Flight helicopter once again will land in a field near the Veterans Memorial. The helicopter is expected to arrive at about 4:30 p.m. and leave as the walk is beginning.
"We hope people will get to the park early so they can see the helicopter land," Adams said.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood was advertised as the ceremony's guest speaker, but the Peoria Republican can't be there because of a scheduling conflict.
Pinch-hitting for LaHood will be Joe Russell, owner of Russell's Cycle World in Washington, a frequent speaker at community events in Washington.
The Washington Community High School cheerleaders and marching band drum line will lead the walk.
Several Washington high school sports teams are expected to participate in the walk, and the walkers will be welcomed to the ceremony venue by drummers from Washington Middle School.
The ceremony will include comments by Washington high school cheerleader Kenna Ashton, the Rev. Dave Jane from Connect Church, Mayor Gary Manier, Washington police Chief Mike McCoy, Washington Fire Chief Roger Traver and Northern Tazewell Fire Chief Mike Vissering.
There will be 18 strikes of a bell on a fire truck (representing the 18 years since the attacks), a display of lights on police, fire and rescue vehicles, and the Washington high school chamber choir will sing the national anthem, "America the Beautiful" and "Amazing Grace."
Law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel in attendance will be recognized by committee member Tom Berlett, the Washington Police Department honor guard will present and retreat the flags and do a rifle salute, and taps will be played.
Adams, a Washington City Council alderman, said the city of Washington annually covers "minor expenses" from the ceremony. Donated bottled water is available for spectators.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.