By Tom Dalton
The grieving family of Karen Martin went to the Salem waterfront a decade ago to release balloons in memory of the American Airlines head flight attendant from Danvers who was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On that day 10 years ago, they also released balloons for Karen's aunt, Kathleen Martin of Danvers, who died on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, hours after hearing the tragic news about her niece.
Yesterday, a decade later, a large contingent from the Martin family marched in a parade in Danvers in memory of the courageous flight attendant who was stabbed by a terrorist, becoming one of the first 9/11 victims, and the nearly 3,000 others who died that day.
As the parade stopped by a memorial in Danvers Square that included a brick inscribed with the flight attendant's name, family members repeated the gesture of a decade ago, letting go of a handful of balloons with messages attached.
"It's a crazy, simple thing," said an aunt, Joan Greener of Salem, "but it's a healing."
The North Shore, home to 10 victims of the terrorist attacks, held a variety of healings yesterday on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
In Marblehead, which lost three residents, the town police and fire departments held a remembrance ceremony at noon in Memorial Park.
There was an 8 a.m. flag ceremony at Peabody's Sept. 11 memorial on Grandview Avenue followed by a parade and an open house at the Police Department.
A large crowd gathered in Salem, where the Fire Department dedicated a memorial made by firefighters that included a 100-pound steel beam recovered from ground zero in New York City.
They held a flag ceremony in Beverly, a road race in Swampscott, a candlelight vigil in Topsfield, and art exhibits at local churches and colleges. Students at Endicott College in Beverly used the day to perform random acts of kindness.
In Danvers, both friends and strangers lined the parade route to honor a 40-year-old woman who grew up in town, graduated from Danvers High School and lived here most of her life. Many had stories to tell.
"The last time I saw her, my husband and I were coming back from Trinidad, and she was our flight attendant," said Sally Gates Whitaker, 51, a Danvers High classmate. "She moved us up to first class. ... Everybody knew Karen, and everybody loved her."
Carolyn Moulton, a flight attendant from Danvers, marched with the Martin family yesterday, wearing her American Airlines uniform.
"I'm a flight attendant because of Karen ..." she said. "I had to honor her."
Angela Tsiumis of Danvers wore a jacket from American Airlines, where she once worked and where her husband is employed.
"I actually do a memorial every year" at different places, she said. "This is my home, I wanted to be here today."
The parade, held under bright sunshine and clear blue skies, went past New Brothers Restaurant and Deli, where a color guard ceremony was held earlier in the day.
"One of our own perished," Dick Moody of Operation Troop Support told the crowd that gathered on the sidewalk at 8:30 a.m. "Do not ever forget her."
The parade also went past Central Avenue, where Martin once lived, and down High Street, where people sat on stone walls or stood on front porches.
It passed a few blocks from the Peabody Institute Library, where a granite bench is inscribed with Martin's name and the words "In Our Hearts Forever." Yesterday, the bench, which sits under a towering maple tree, was covered with yellow and pink flowers.
The parade ended at Fire Department Headquarters, where a memorial was dedicated, a granite stone with a figure cut in the shape of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which was attacked on 9/11, and inscribed with the numbers of the airline flights that were hijacked by terrorists, and the number 8087, the fire box at the World Trade Center.
After several fire officials spoke, Greener said a few words about a niece she loved.
"A lot of challenges came along in her life, and she wasn't afraid of any one of them. ... In the final challenge, she gave her life."
It is Martin's spirit, above all, that will live on, her aunt said.
"On a bad day, look at the blue sky and let the sun shine down and know there's a spirit up there that's going to help you get through the day."