KALIDA — On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a day in which nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives, the Pioneer Days Parade in Kalida paid special tribute to those affected by the terrorist attacks.
“Remember, Honor, Respect The Day American Changed” was the theme of this year’s parade, which featured patriotic music from local marching bands, a helicopter flyover, red, white and blue floats, and a steel artifact from one of the actual World Trade Center towers.
Thousands of people from all across northwest Ohio traveled to the parade in downtown Kalida, where a giant American flag flew above the cavalcade of floats.
It was a special day for Bill Rieman, the Pioneer Days publicity chairman who helped organize the event, even though he said they initially struggled with how to properly commemorate such an American tragedy.
“When we were thinking about this year’s theme, we struggled with it a little bit because we didn’t want to take advantage of 9/11 or anything like that,” Rieman said. “But we thought that it was very important to commemorate 9/11, and for people to remember what happened. Especially the young kids who weren’t born yet or were so young they don’t remember.”
Many floats carried special signs honoring 9/11 victims and their families, first responders, and American patriotism in general. One sign read, “Putnam County Salutes Our Lost Firefighters,” and another stated, “We Will Never Forget.” Rieman said more than 2,000 firefighters from across northwest Ohio marched in the parade, interacting with children as they walked by.
“That was really amazing to see,” Rieman said.
Erik Verhoff, an Ottawa-Glandorf High School student who attended the parade, said he was glad to see such a large number of people pay tribute to the lives lost on 9/11.
“It’s part of our history, it’s part of what makes us who we are, and it changed our whole country,” Verhoff said. “I think it’s a necessity that we remember 9/11, and I’m glad to see so many people doing that here.”
Joanne Schmitz, of Glandorf, agreed that 9/11 is a day that must be remembered.
“I love the patriotic theme very much,” Schmitz said. “We need to do this on 9/11, and to show we’re still a great nation.”
Lima resident Rick Rodriguez, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said it was an emotional moment for him.
“It really gets to me, seeing all the people show their respect,” Rodriguez said. “It’s really been enjoyable to see.”
In all, Rieman said nearly 20,000 people showed up for this year’s parade.
“It was just a great day,” he said. “It was a tremendous crowd, and it was nice to see so many people come down to commemorate 9/11 and show their respect.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.