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9/11 First Responder, Survivor Share Stories Of Renewal At New Canaan Event

A candle-lighting ceremony for the 2,977 innocent people who perished on 9/11 Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
A panel of speakers shared personal reflections of their experiences from 9/11. From left, Bonnie McEneaney, Brian Lavigne, Mary and Frank Fetchet, Guy Fortt Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Frank Fetchet, of Voices of September 11th, speaks at the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Grace Farms Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Grace Farms in New Canaan Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Twenty-four hours after the World Trade Center collapsed, then-Greenwich firefighter Guy Fortt came upon a police officer curled up in a ball on the ground at the scene.

"I saw that he was dead. But it was good to see a whole person. Everything I was seeing that day -- even chairs and desks -- was shredded," Fortt recalled.

Fortt, who was part of the the 9/11 Search & Rescue Team, was one of the speakers Monday at a program called "Remembrance, Renewal and Resilience" at Grace Farm Sanctuary in New Canaan. 

Several hundred people attended the free event, which commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy. It was a collaboration of Grace Farms Foundation of New Canaan and Voices of September 11th -- an organization that provides support to 9/11 families, responders and survivors.

Other speakers who shared their stories of the tragedy and spoke of their path to recovery included Frank and Mary Fetchet of New Canaan, who lost their son Brad; Brian Lavigne, a survivor; and Bonnie McEneaney, who lost her husband, Eamon.

Lavigne, who worked at Morgan Stanley, escaped from the 60th floor of Tower Two. He said he initially felt responsible for the people who didn't make it out of the building, 

"Over the years, you struggle with being a survivor," he told the crowd.

"I've (since) realized I feel a personal responsibility to enjoy my life. I realize just how lucky I am to be here," said Lavigne, who is now married with three children.

Frank Fetchet said that after losing his son, he went through many emotions. "We are not wired to bury a child. If I could have gotten into a boxing ring with God, I would have done it," he said.

Yet, his faith, family and friends have helped him to heal. "I now start my day thinking about what I am thankful for instead of thinking about the problems of the day," he said.

Bonnie McEneaney shared a story of her recovery after her husband's death. "You have to do something positive to get you out of that abyss. In my case, I spent five years writing a book where I interviewed 200 families on their experiences of the loss of their loved ones," she said.

In the second portion of the program, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes spoke about preventing another 9/11.

Murphy called for tighter gun regulations, saying that there are 200 people on the terrorist watch list who can walk into a gun store and walk out with a powerful weapon. "It only takes one guy who shouldn't have walked in and bought a gun for dozens of people to be dead," he said.

When the subject of the upcoming presidential election came up, bickering voices on both sides of the political spectrum could be heard around the room.

Moderator Joe Scarborough from "Morning Joe" on MSNBC said that this freedom of expression is what makes America great. "When we embrace diverse voices and have that spirited back and forth, that's what makes us who we are," he said.

"If we win this war, we will win it by embracing diversity and we can pursue the American dream."

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