By Jim Deegan, The Express-Times

In Nazareth, an estimated 500 to 600 people attended a Sept. 11 anniversary service this afternoon highlighted by patriotic music and remembrances of 9/11.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent recounted the story of his cousin, Steve McIntyre, who with 11 co-workers of the American Bureau of Shipping escaped the 91st floor of the burning North Tower that day.

Service organizer Bill Brackbill, the former Northampton County executive, introduced his son-in-law Jim Scott, a Secret Service agent who hustled Vice President Dick Cheney from his White House office to a secure underground bunker.

And Paul McHale, the former Lehigh Valley congressman and assistant secretary of defense for homeland security,  illustrated the sacrifices made for liberty by telling of Marine Corps Sgt. Bill Cahir. Cahir, a former Express-Times correspondent who covered McHale, joined the Marines in the wake of 9/11 and died in Afghanistan in August 2009.

Cahir's twin daughters were born shortly after his death at age 40.

"Those two little girls will never see their father, but they will be the beneficiary -- as will we -- of his sacrifice," said McHale, a retired Marine Reserves colonel who now works as a consultant and attorney in Washington, D.C.

The two-hour ceremony at Nazareth Area High School had been in the planning stages since April. Organizers recognized the service of first responders and servicemen and women in the war on terror.

Performances by the 45-piece Nazareth Community Area Band, conducted by Ralph Brodt III, and 64-member Nazareth Community Chorus, directed by Lenna Harris, brought the audience to its feet.

McHale said he was driving on Interstate 78 from his Bethlehem home to a state parks board meeting in Harrisburg when the terrorists struck Sept. 11, 2001. By day's end, he had packed a bag, gotten a Marine haircut and, as an assistant division commander  in the Marine Reserves, prepared for deployment, he said.

That call-up wouldn't come until six years later, when as a Marine Reserves lieutenant colonel and assistant secretary of defense, he would be deployed to a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

But it was Cahir's bravery, McHale said, and others like his that will ensure the survival of liberty for Americans.

"His story is one of duty, courage, sacrifice and renewal," he said.