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Never forgotten

For the first time since I have lived in Newton and possibly the first time in the past 19 years, the Newton Fire Department will not be holding its official, public memorial ceremony for 9/11 as it has in the past. I am sure it was a difficult decision; however like so many things this year, it is simply another gathering affected by the pandemic.

The ceremony has also typically honored NFD employees’ service. Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik said they will be hosting individual ceremonies for crew members while also remembering all those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks.

Thousands of people died that terrible day in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Even though the memorial will not be held, that doesn’t mean 9/11 will be forgotten in the community, especially the Newton man, Jim Cleere, who perished in the attacks. Jim’s widow, Jean, usually attends the Newton ceremony. I can only imagine what it must have been like to lose a loved one in that way nearly two decades ago.

I don’t know the family, but I did discover a strange connection.

My sister’s husband, Justin, is a gamer. He has multiple Playstations and other gaming systems. About two years ago, he was really into finding an older PC to run some of his retro computer games. He was attempting to retrofit my sister’s and my desktop from college to run Windows 95 to get the games to work.

He got it to work somewhat, but it still wasn’t playing certain games. So he searched around Facebook for an older PC with its original operating system. He found a HP Pavilion for a reasonable price. The computer was in Newton, so he came to town and made the deal for his new-to-him machine.

Justin was excited to get it home and test it out. As he was setting it up, he found a note on it from its original owner, the name read Jim Cleere. He recognized the name, and he had a “whoa” moment. He didn’t buy it from the family, so he didn’t make the connection until he read the note.

He told me about it, since he knew I lived in Newton. I knew the name immediately. Justin hopes he is using the computer well and in some way honoring its previous owner.

9/11 was the first major history event I was old enough to fully remember. I was a freshman in high school and the first tower was hit as we were starting band class. We all still thought it was an unfortunate accident. In study hall the next period, my teacher was listening to a news program on the radio and we heard the breaking news reports when the second plane hit. It was clearly an organized attack at that point.

I had government class the next block, and our history teacher decided not to teach the planned lesson. He said I could teach you about history, but we all need to watch history as it happens today. This was before every classroom had a television, so we had to go to the shop room to watch as events unfolded.

We saw both towers fall in the next hour. I’ll never forget that day. We as Americans came together to mourn the tragedy caused by the terror attack launched at our nation. It was felt all across the United States and even in our small town in Iowa.

We held an assembly and did what you aren’t supposed to do in school, we prayed for our nation and for those who were killed and injured in the attacks. I pray I never witness an attack like this in my lifetime again.

Contact Pam Pratt at

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