MIDDLETOWN — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz was secretary of the state during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, overseeing the primary election in Connecticut.

She was conducting radio interviews, urging people to vote, when she learned of the terrorist attack 18 years ago that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

She arrived at her office just as United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

“At that point, it was very clear our country was under attack,” she said during Middletown’s remembrance ceremony Wednesday at the 9/11 memorial at Veterans Park.

Soon after, she was inundated with phone calls from people asking whether she was considering canceling the election.

“For a while, not many people voted, but then something unexpected and extraordinary happened. Turnout suddenly went up, and, in spite of the tragedy, the chaos and the uncertainty of the day, people came out and voted,” Bysiewicz said.

“I think a lot of people thought it was something they could do in the moment to support our democracy and our freedom. They did so with patriotic duty,” she added.

Several hundred residents, city employees, first responders, dignitaries and state and local officials converged on the Connecticut Trees of Honor to mark the solemn occasion Wednesday.

The morning began with a march: Members of the police honor guard, under the command of Lt. Paul Maturo, joined the Middletown Police Benefit Association Bagpipe Band and Middletown Fire honor guard in a procession to the city’s 9/11 relic.

A subway double rail is installed at the memorial, originally part of the Port Authority Trans Hudson line. It was retrieved from the rubble under the World Trade Center after the two towers burned and collapsed.

“On this fateful day 18 years ago, our lives were changed forever. Four hijacked planes were used in the most devastating international plot against the United States on a morning not much different from this one,” Middletown Fire Department Chief Robert Kronenberger said, beginning the proceedings.

Two airliners hit the the north and south towers of the World Trade Center; another, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and another, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers overtook the hijackers.

“The shock and horror of that tragic day has subsided, and now, at times, replaced with a longing for innocence lost. We come in memory of those who lost their lives,” said the Rev. Ryan Wetherhead of Vox Church in Middletown.

“We are reminded this morning of the sacrifice of public servants who demonstrated the greatest love of all by laying down their lives for their friends. We celebrate their gifts to a fallen humanity,” he added.

Police Chief William McKenna read out the number of firefighters, police and port authority officers, EMTs, an FBI agent and Secret Service agent, all who lost their lives in the attacks.

“We have taken steps to get beyond the horror, yet it still leaves pain in our hearts. And we continue to remember those who were taken away way too soon,” McKenna told those gathered.

He spoke of the 33,000 first responders affected with post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, heart disease, and other serious injuries, many of whom have died.

“They’re still falling,” the chief said, pointing to New York firefighter John W. Boyle, who died Aug. 22 from a Sept. 11-related illness.

Over the past week, the FDNY placed 22 more names of personnel on its 9/11 memorial, McKenna said, mentioning Connecticut State Trooper 1st Class Walter Green Jr., who died last year at 51 as a result of an illness he contracted as a search and rescue canine handler at the World Trade Center.

There is some goodness that came from that day, the chief said, as 13 children of first responders who died will graduate from the FDNY fire academy in two weeks.

“Bravery runs in a hero’s blood,” McKenna said.

First responders saved an estimated 18,000 victims that day from the World Trade Center. “We can only wish we could have saved them all,” McKenna said.

Byseiwicz recalled the sacrifice of Middlefield resident Bruce Eagleson, vice president at The Westfield Group, who repeatedly went back into his office to save all 10 of his employees after United Flight 175 crashed into the south tower. He died in the effort.

Eagleson was husband of fifth-grade Middletown teacher Gale Eagleson, who had Bysiewicz’s children in her class.

South Fire District Chief Michael Howley concluded the morning by delivering the history of the 9/11 relic. A memorial, a large piece of a steel beam from the north tower of the World Trade Center, is installed at his station on Randolph Road.