In a pandemic ceremony shadowed by a smoky sky, there were few but meaningful words spoken, prayers of remembrance and the ever-present flapping of the American flag in a light breeze.
The 19th annual ceremony remembering those who died during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were held this year at Fire Staton No. 3 and attended by around 16 firefighters and four police, keeping the number of people small — and physically distanced due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Firefighters broadcast the ceremony live via Facebook.
Running only a few seconds over 12 minutes, the Wednesday service started at exactly 6:50 a.m., 19 years to the minute after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Woodland’s memorial mirrored others held across the country, particularly in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers and crew attacked terrorists who had taken over Flight 93, knowing that all would probably die as a result. All the ceremonies were somewhat muted, however, because of the viral pandemic.
In New York City, for example, the names of the dead were not read in person by through a recording.
During the attacks in New York, there were 343 firefighters who died responding to the Twin Towers, along with 72 police officers and others in law enforcement as well as 55 military personnel. Around 3,000 other people were killed in the attacks directly and an untold number of others — both civilians and first responders — have died in the years following as a result of respiratory and physical illnesses caused by an estimated 100,000 tons of contaminated dust, debris, burning fuel and other pollutants.
“On this solemn occasion, it’s fitting that the skies are filled with smoke,” said Fire Chief Eric Zane. “At this time 19 years ago the skies were filled with smoke over Manhattan.”
“Most of us can recount the events of that day; the images, the radio traffic and the sounds, the utter disbelief of what had just unfolded in front of our eyes,” Zane told the assemblage. “We wanted answers. Why? How? Leaving us to wonder if there would be more attacks. For many of us, those events altered the course of our lives.
“Though we’ve been urged to never forget Sept. 11 we should also pause to remember firefighters like John T. Fogerty of Ladder Company 3, who died on Aug. 25 of this year. A direct result of the World Trade Center illness. He is the 227th of the FDNY to succumb to the disease. Way too many more are battling illness such as lung disease and other illnesses that can more difficult to see, including PTSD and aggression.”
Zane thanked those who were taking a few minutes out of their lives urged people to “never forget those who lost their lives, never forget those lives lost as a result of the World Trade Center illness, never forget those suffering from disease and mental health illnesses 19 years later. Never forget.
Following Zane’s remarks, a silver-colored bell was struck to symbolize those firefighters and others who lost their lives by Station No. 3 engineer Andrew Lewis.
Lewis told those assembled that the “last alarm,” also referred to as 5-5-5, is a long-held tradition in the fire service dating back over 150 years. The ringing of the bell marks the end of an emergency and a return to quarters. In this case, the “return to quarters” means that emergency responders will never be called out again and are “going home.”
A minute of silence followed the bell ringing, which was then brought to a close with bagpiper Trista Kennedy performing Amazing Grace.
They were followed by a benediction from Woodland Police Chaplain Matt Van Peursem, who is also the minister of The Catalyst Church in Woodland. He spoke of the thousands of people who lost their lives.