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‘Here to Keep Her Memory Alive’

September 24, 2018

Volunteers clean up the memorial for 9/11 victim Jessica Sachs next to the New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica on Sunday. In front are flowers and American flags that were planted for the rededication ceremony that followed.

BILLERICA -- Many of the volunteers did not know Jessica Sachs or her family personally, even if the memory of her death in the 9/11 attacks was seared into their memories.

Some were fellow parishioners at the New Colony Baptist Church, where Sachs and her family attended. Others simply wanted to spend the brisk fall afternoon doing something for the community. But they buzzed about energetically all the same on Sunday, working to clean up the overgrown memorial garden outside the church that bears Sachs’ name.

“We just don’t want it to be forgotten, so we’re here to keep her memory alive,” said Donald MacDonald, who, along with his wife Phyllis, joined about a dozen others in the Sunday afternoon effort.

Sachs was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when the plane was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower in New York City. She and all of the passengers on board died.

In the year following the attack, community members in Sachs’ native Billerica installed a “peace garden” in her honor next to the New Colony Baptist Church, something that those who knew her said honored her commitment to her faith. The church has kept the garden open since then, but in recent months, it had become overgrown and covered in brush.

Deedee Dorrington, a regular visitor, decided to do something about it. She posted on Facebook urging the community to help her spruce up the Sachs memorial, and on Sunday, about a dozen different people arrived with gardening equipment in hand.

“Social media takes a hit, but it also does a lot of good in this world,” Dorrington said.

Dorrington, like many of the volunteers, was not personally close with Sachs. The two had crossed paths at the church, and Dorrington knew her family a bit more. She felt it worthwhile, though, to do something in Sachs’ honor, even if her relatives have since moved away.

“I think it’s important we remember our residents who suffered on that day,” Dorrington said.

Volunteers took about an hour to clean up the garden. They cleared away any weeds or brush that had grown too far and spread fresh mulch over all of the flower beds, then surrounded the memorial plaque at the center with American flags.

A generous community member donated a new granite bench to allow for quiet reflection, and others gave money to allow the group to buy flowers.

Once cleanup efforts finished, community members gathered for a brief ceremony to rededicate the garden to Sachs, featuring prayer, reading of Scripture, a rendition of “America the Beautiful” and a musket salute from Dan Burns, who attended dressed as a minuteman.

“She died as part of the battle of liberty and freedom,” Burns said. “I think it’ll be fitting that we’re here to fire a volley in her remembrance.”

As the day’s events wound to a close, Dorrington approached another volunteer and looked back on the newly lively garden.

“Aren’t you happy?” she said. “You did a good thing today.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.

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