The 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony 2021 took place at the Commander Dan Shanower Memorial, located behind the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St., along the Riverwalk. The Exchange Club of Naperville once again sponsored Naperville’s annual September 11 remembrance, this year’s event marked the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the nation.
The Naperville ceremony honored Gold Star families and featured music by the Naperville Municipal Band and Naperville Men’s Glee Club as well as offering remarks from Mayor Steve Chirico, Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis, Police Chief Jason Arres, and other community leaders.
2021 Guest Speaker
The 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony 2021 guest speaker was Commissioner José A. Santiago, a native Chicagoan, who joined the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) in 1979, and on February 16, 2012, Mayor Emanuel appointed Santiago as the Fire Commissioner of the CFD.
Santiago proudly served in the United States Marine Corps for over 31 years, both in active duty and the Reserves. He worked his way through the ranks from Private to Commanding Officer of H & S Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. As the Commanding Officer, he was responsible for the training, directing and supervision of 253 Marines. He served in Operations Frequent Wind (RVN), Desert Shield, and Desert Storm (SWA).
He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southern Illinois University.
Commissioner José A. Santiago Retired from the Chicago Fire Department on September 1, 2018.
Naperville was among the first cities to build a memorial dedicated to those who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks on America. Dedicated on September 11, 2003, The Commander Dan Shanower Memorial is located between the DuPage River and the Municipal Center in downtown Naperville.
The memorial is based on an article written by Commander Shanower entitled “Freedom Isn’t Free.” The memorial incorporates upwards of 140 faces created by Naperville schoolchildren symbolizing the casualties of 9/11. The faces are molded onto the surface of a 48-foot retaining wall that also includes an eternal flame. In the middle of the memorial, is a sculpture designed by Benton Harbor, Michigan, artist Bill Cooper. The sculpture includes a 100 pounds of rubble from the damaged portion of the Pentagon, a twisted steel beam from the World Trade Center, and granite from the Pennsylvania region where Flight 93 crashed after passengers took on the hijackers. Incised into the sculpture are an outline of Commander Shanower’s boot print, the insignias of New York area rescue workers, and the number “93,” in memory of the Pennsylvania crash victims. The memorial plaza is surrounded by a perennial garden. The Naperville City Council provided the lands to build The Commander Dan Shanower Memorial with privately raised funds and donated goods and services.
Commander Dan Shanower
“Those of us in the military are expected to make the ultimate sacrifice when called. The military loses scores of personnel each year. Each one risked and lost his or her life in something they believed in, leaving behind friends, family, and shipmates to bear the burden and celebrate their devotion to our country…Freedom isn’t free.”
Commander Dan F. Shanower, 40, combined strong patriotism with a taste for adventure and a wonderful sense of humor. A Navy intelligence officer, he had just begun gathering information on the World Trade Center attacks to brief his superiors when the hijacked plane that struck the Pentagon killed him.
Commander Shanower grew up in Naperville, and attended Naperville public schools, later graduating from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He joined the Navy and was commissioned as an officer in 1985.