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Updated Sep 11, 2013 - 6:37 pm

Phoenix’s Sept. 11 ceremony touches heart of ex-NYC firefighter

PHOENIX — Honor guards and bagpipes were part of a touching Sept. 11 remembrance service Wednesday at Phoenix City Hall.

The crowd of hundreds included former New York City firefighter John Buneta, who now lives in the Valley.

“This was a very hard day,” Buneta said. “It was a very touching tribute to have the flag presented here today. This was done so tastefully, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

The flag he’s referring to flew above the rescue-and-recovery operations at the World Trade Center in New York. That flag was presented to him 12 years ago while he was a member of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, and Wednesday was the first time it has left his home. The gathering was the first such tribute Buneta has attended.

“It was very moving for me,” Buneta said. “Thought I would handle it differently. It was very emotional and a hard thing to go through.”

Buneta said he didn’t take the flag out for other memorials prior to Wednesday’s because he didn’t want to be part of services.

“It was always very hard for me to go to a memorial. I chose to spend my days on Sept. 11 pretty much quiet and alone and just having time to reflect on all the friends I lost that day.”

Buneta lost 18 friends on Sept. 11.

The former firefighter said he doesn’t like to talk about Sept. 11, even with others who lost friends or loved ones in the towers.

Buneta said he considered framing the flag, but after this ceremony, he will place it in a case and bring it to every subsequent Sept. 11 memorial service in the city.

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