Patriotic musical tribute marks 9/11: Downtown Night Market in Altoona follows show

The public is welcome, but you better bring tissues.

The patriotic musical tribute, America 9/11 Family Together, will mark the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, is sure to be emotional with “Taps,” “Amazing Grace” and other heart-wrenching music to be presented, said the Rev. Denise Arpino, pastor of the Simpson-Temple United Parish, which sponsors the event. Gordon Felt, who is president of the Families of Flight 93, is guest speaker.

Arpino hopes attendees also will be inspired to come together as a community. That is the purpose of a separate event later on Sunday, when the Downtown Night Market runs from 4 to 8 p.m. with vendors, music, food and a street festival along 11th Avenue.

The 9/11 tribute will begin at 3 p.m. at the Altoona Area High School Auditorium. It was held annually for 10 years, suspended for four and then resurrected this year for the 15th anniversary, Arpino said. The tributes were held at the Sixth Avenue church the first nine times, and moved to Altoona Area Junior High School for the 10th anniversary.

“But it still was standing room only,” she said, hoping that the AAHS facility will be adequate for the the free event.

Felt, whose oldest brother, Edward, was a passenger on Flight 93, has a “personal connection” with the 9/11 events and has been involved in the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville. He also has worked with families and their children coping with the tragedy, Arpino said.

Felt will speak on the importance of remembering 9/11 “so it doesn’t just become a date on the calendar,” along with “lessons learned, who have we become and how do we remember,” according to Arpino, who said baskets will be out for donations to the Flight 93 Memorial.

Entertainment will include dancers from the Altoona Dance Theatre; vocalists such as the Bellwood-Antis Middle School Chorale and the Flight 93 Memorial Chorus; and other musicians, from the AAHS Brass Quintet, Flight 19, to Blair County Brass Works.

“I’ve heard the Flight 93 Memorial Chorus and they’re just wonderful,” Arpino said. “The Bellwood-Antis Chorale has 30 to 40 kids. Some of them weren’t even born yet…”

“It’s a wonderful program, inspiring. People will need tissues. The armed forces medley gets pretty emotional.”

She said visitors will include family members of military deployed, and “we want to walk beside them as a community, as a family,” Arpino said.

The program also will be designed to “broaden who we are as a community, being there for one another,” she said, noting that songs such as “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” are on the playlist. “It’s a call to live together, respect one another and love one another as brothers and sisters in our community of Altoona, our community of Blair County, our community of Pennsylvania, our community of the United States of America.

“I think certainly as we remember 9/11, it’s a very somber time, but yet, we look at how we’ve rebuilt and how we’ve revitalized,” Arpino said. “We’ve come out of the tragedy. There’s joy to be celebrated.”

That’s the idea of the Downtown Night Market, which is completely separate from the patriotic tribute and is the third of its kind in the last year, said Candance Holliday, events marketing manager for the Altoona Mirror, which is sponsoring the event.

About 60 vendors will be on hand, including crafters, a dozen food trucks, three farmer’s markets with “all their great produce, great soaps and other homemade products and pies,” Holliday said. “Peterman’s Flower Shop will be selling fresh flowers from (its) booth.”

The festival atmosphere will be enhanced with the closing of 11th Avenue between 13th and 15th streets, adjacent to Heritage Park. Entertainment will include Allegheny Ballet Company, the ShowTwirlers and Born and the Beanstalk, a regional band with a playlist of nearly 300 songs from all genres, including original music.

Holliday said the Downtown Night Market is designed to encourage visitors to check out downtown.

“We encourage people to attend the patriotic musical tribute and then come on over to 11th Avenue for our night market,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.