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Venice ceremonies mark 18th year since attacks of Sept. 11, 2001

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VENICE — Ceremonies were held Wednesday in Venice to remember those killed Sept. 11, 2001, along with troops and first responders who have died from battle or illnesses related to the terrorist attack.

About 100 people watched or took part in a morning ceremony at Patriot Park.

The service, conducted by Salt of the Earth, included remarks and remembrances from Venice and other area residents who recalled events from the day — along with tragedies and triumphs since then.

Kris Hager, whose son, Joshua, died in the Iraq War in 2007, spoke about their last conversation.

“He just called and said: Dad, I just wanted to say I love you,” Hager said.

Hager, a Venice resident who is active in Gold Star family causes, said that was the difference between good and evil.

“Our nation’s memory are with those who loved, not with anyone who hated,” he said.

North Port resident Matthew Besheer also spoke. Besheer worked for the Port Authority Police for 25 years and was assigned to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for eight years. He was one of the investigators who helped track down Ramzi Youself, responsible for the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six and injured more than 1,000.

He and his partner also indicted Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered the mastermind of 9/11 and is due to stand trial in 2021.

He spoke of his memories of fighting terrorists before Sept. 11 and of the people he lost that day.

And he worries about the future.

“These people don’t have a timeline, they don’t have a budget,” he said, noting a Bible verse he often writes: 1 Peter 5-8. “’Be alert and of sober mind,’” he quoted. “’Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Many others also took part in the ceremony.

Miller Vaughn recalled the local connection to 9/11. The fact President George W. Bush was speaking at a Sarasota school when the attack began — and the fact the region later learned some of the terrorists lived in the area and took pilot lessons at Venice airport prior to the attacks.

Nokomis resident Michael Busso, a retired New York City police officer, was at his first Sept. 11 memorial ceremony. He said he may have avoided them in previous years.

“I try not to think of it as much,” he said. “But I think it was time. I wanted to see the ceremony.”

He recalled being asleep Sept. 11, 2001 when his then-girlfriend called him telling him a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. Initially, he didn’t think it was a big deal. Then, as he watched live television from his Queens residence, he witnessed the second jet strike the World Trade Center.

His then-girlfriend, now-wife, Denise, said she remembers him saying “I’ve gotta go,” and hanging up. Michael Busso said he and another officer, a friend of his, worked through traffic jams to get from Queens to downtown Manhattan to start to help.

Their job was to transport nurses and doctors from Bellevue to a closer hospital.

“The thing I do remember was, (once getting into Manhattan), it was completely desolate on Second Avenue,” he said.

He doesn’t remember the towers collapsing specifically but said he was aware it was happening.

Busso appreciated the ceremony Wednesday, but worried about who wasn’t there.

“It was touching,” he said. “I would have liked to see more people here. Young people.”

Denise Busso agreed.

“It was very nice, very touching,” she said. “But we do need more people to understand that day — not just New York.”

Denise Busso said one of her children recently found her watching a television show about Sept. 11.

“’Mommy, why do you watch this? It always makes you cry,’” Denise Busso said. “’So I never forget,’” she responded to her daughter.

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