Among those ringing the bell at the York County Court House on Monday to mark the events of Sept. 11, 2001 were veterans Dennis Chagnon, who served in the USAF National Guard, David Francoeur who served in the US Army National Guard, and Chance Giannelli, who served in the US Army.
By Tammy Wells
York County government media specialist
The pealing of a bell rang out over Alfred village Monday morning in a simple, solemn event marking the loss of life to terrorist attacks on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Employees of York County government took turns pulling the bell rope at the courthouse and sharing stories.
Diana Plante of the Registry of Deeds was at work on that Tuesday morning in September 2001 when she heard the news.
“It was devastating and life changing,” she said.
Debra Ham, also in deeds, remembers that morning clearly and the stillness that ensued after the attacks.
“It was so quiet, and there were no planes in the air,” said Ham, who, along with others, has rung the bell in previous years.
“It is important to remember,” said deputy probate register Casey Hartford, who recalled how people came together after the attacks.
In all, 2,977 firefighters, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement and civilians perished, and more than 6,000 people were injured. Also dead were the 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who had hijacked and crashed four commercial aircraft into the World Trade Centers in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in a farm field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Three of the bell ringers were veterans – David Francoeur of York County Emergency Management Agency, who served in the U.S. Army National Guard; Dennis Chagnon, a court security officer with the York County Sheriff’s Office who served in the U.S. Air Force National Guard, and Chance Giannelli, retired after 23 years with the U.S. Army Special Forces and nephew of Richard Gaudette, of the county’s facilities department.
“A lot of Americans died that day,” said Gianelli, “and a lot of soldiers after the fact.”
Giannelli had been assigned to the New England Recruiting Battalion and was heading to work on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when his wife Celeste called to let him know what had transpired. “I knew we were going to war,” said Giannelli, who went on to serve in Iraq and on several tours of duty in Afghanistan.
He said Gaudette asked him if he would be a bell ringer, and he agreed. “I was honored,” he said.
Francoeur had a similar reaction.
“It was an honor to be here with fellow veterans,” he said, expressing sorrow for the loss of life on that day 22 years ago.
“It was a proud moment for me” to ring the bell, said Chagnon, remembering the deaths that resulted from the terrorist attacks. “It was an honor to do that for them, to remember them and the sacrifice they made.”
The bell sounded at 8:46 a.m., at 9:03 a.m., at 9:37 a.m. and 10:03 a.m., commemorating the exact moment when the terrorist-controlled planes hit their targets.
The county government has marked the events of Sept. 11 for many years, at times – like the 20-year anniversary in 2021 – with large commemorations. Over the past 20 years. Gaudette has organized the bell ringing. He plans to retire soon, and expressed the hope it will continue.
“I think it should be recognized,” said Gaudette. “It is part of history.”