State leaders, community members and students gathered at the state Capitol Sunday to salute those who lost their lives in Tuesday's terrorist attacks during a day Gov. Scott McCallum said was for 'hope, renewal and rebuilding our spirit.'
'We are a proud America, a proud Wisconsin,' McCallum said. 'We cannot, we will not let the unspeakable terror that happened in New York, in Washington, in Pennsylvania change our way of life. It will not and cannot diminish our hope or resolve.'
McCallum said his children had asked him, after seeing footage of the attacks and aftermath, if there would be war.
'As planes crashed elsewhere,' he said, 'they touched close to home, to all of us.'
The perpetrators of Tuesday's 'crimes against humanity,' McCallum said, underestimated 'America's spirit,' a national character that has become stronger, not weaker as a result of the tragedy.
'Tomorrow we will show the world ... where freedom still rings from sea to shining sea,' he said.
Sen. Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, majority leader of the state Senate, also spoke at the program. He said that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Americans had proven themselves to be citizens who, regardless of race, creed and political beliefs, share a set of common values.
And as Americans, such a senseless loss of innocent lives is nearly impossible for us to understand, Chvala said.
Sunday, during the ceremony, was the quietest time he had ever seen in the Capitol area, Chvala said.
'We are Americans with great strength, great unity and great resolve,' he said. 'Any organization ... that doesn't [see] that fails to see what this country stands for.'
Rep. Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, speaker of the state Assembly, along with many other speakers at the ceremony, commented on how Americans had turned a tragedy into a time for unification as a nation, volunteering in whatever ways possible.
'Tuesday's attackers thought they had struck at America's weakness,' he said. 'Instead, they found our strength. ... This nation witnessed a dark hate and responded with a light of courage and compassion.'
Eric Garbich, a Madison resident, expressed similar sentiments.
'I think there's an indescribable unity that I'm glad to participate in,' he said.
Rick Gale, a representative of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, also spoke Sunday.
'Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, a day of terror, a day of anger, a day of change,' he said. 'This alarm was an attack on our culture, our values, our way of life.'
Near the end of the service, a firefighters' bell ceremony was performed in remembrance of the firefighters who lost their lives while attempting to rescue victims of the attacks.
Monsignor Paul Swain, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, said there was a need to bring the terrorists to justice but in a way that would not cause further injustice in the world.
Brig. Gen. Al Wilkening, deputy adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard said there was a need to remain patient as a response was being planned.
'The lower the enemy will stoop, the higher Americans will rise,' he said. 'The American spirit is not dimmed but burns brighter in this dark hour.'
In a statement that was followed by applause from the audience, Wilkening said Wisconsin's National Guard members were 'prepared,' 'ready' and 'willing and capable to answer America's call.'
McCallum said that while things may never be the same following last week's events, the American psyche had the strength to heal.
'America is more than buildings, more than towns,' McCallum said. 'Freedom, courage and compassion are a way of life.'