Residents and city officials gathered Sunday under an American flag hanging from the raised ladder of a fire truck to honor three Milford residents killed in attacks on September 11, 2001, and to salute all those who perished and those who rushed to the scene to try to help.

“There are events which mark our lives,” Mayor Ben Blake said as he led the ceremony at the Woodruff Family YMCA, where a 5K was being held at the same time to salute everyday heroes.

“For everyone here, at least those as old as me, we remember precisely what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” Blake said.

The mayor recalled where he was: He was a law student but had taken the day off to campaign for a friend running in a primary in another town.

“There was a bright, sunny sky,” he said. “A beautiful sky.”

But when the news of the attacks started to come in, he felt numb, and hurried home to check on loved ones. It was important to make sure they were safe, he said.

Fifteen years later, Blake said the nation gathers to celebrate the nation’s character and to honor those real life heroes who poured out in droves to help in any way they could.

“We also celebrate our patriotism,” the mayor said.

State Rep. Charles Ferraro spoke too, recalling that he was just starting his day, watching the morning news, when reports of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center were aired.

He called his wife, who was working at the Veterans Health Administration (VA), where people gathered around televisions to hear the news, as people were doing all around the country.

Husband and wife stayed together on the phone for a half hour, watching the news together: Neither one spoke.

Fire Chief Douglas Edo rang a bell Sunday as Fire Commission Chairman Kevin McGrath read the names of the three Milford residents killed that day: Michael Miller, Avnish Patel and Seth Morris.

The bells that toll each year for victims and heroes are a sign of the nation’s perseverance and strength. “That’s a bell that can never be unrung,” Ferraro said.