Remembering a harrowing day
Esther Griffin stood over a memorial site that her son David Griffin created in 2002 at Veterans Memorial Park in Beaverton when he was a 17-year-old Eagle Scout. She wiped tears from eyes.
"I didn't expect to be so moved here today." Esther said she attended the remembrance ceremony to represent David, who was unable to be at the inaugural remembrance ceremony organized by Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue on Monday, Sept. 11.
David, now 33, was inspired to include the memorial site after the Sept. 11 attacks, in part, because one of the names listed among the killed was the same as his uncle's.
"We spent about seven hours worrying that my half-brother was dead and frantically making phone calls," Esther said. She pointed to the brick that was inscribed "In memory of someone else's brother."
Her half-brother was safe, but after spending all day thinking that he wasn't, she said, "It's almost not any less of a loss that it was someone else, because everybody is someone else's loved one."
David said via phone, it was the realization that anyone in the world could be affected, "so we left a place here where we could gather and memorialize.
He said the point of being an Eagle Scout is to do service for others and he wanted to leave a legacy.
The observance event began at 9 a.m. with program speakers including Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Mike Duyck, Beaverton Police Chief Jim Monger, Tualatin Valley Firefighters Union Local 1660 Brian Smith, Beaverton City Councilor Lacey Beaty and Beaverton American Legion Post 124 Commander Steve Gerber. Firefighter Ron Morgan from the Tigard TVF&R emceed the event.
Monger told the crowd of mostly first-responders that he and his wife realized that his two sons were 9 and 11 years old when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. He said it's important to pass down the memories of that tragic day — a day when 343 firefighters lost their lives in order to save thousands of people.
Smith said he was among fire crew members who "watched the TV in terror and dismay."
"Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing at that time and we keep a promise to never forget," Smith added.
Gerber said, "It is the least we can do to remember and honor the first-responders. It would have been worse if not for the dedication and sacrifice of the first-responders."
Gerber talked about all the memorials in the park. "We are dedicated to all veterans in this park. All gave some and some gave all," he said as he pointed to the famous quote on the memorial behind him.
Beaty was in high school on Sept. 11, 2001, and it inspired her to enlist in the military. She commended the firefighters and law enforcement professionals for being true heroes.
In attendance at the event was Marika Reiner, former president of the Portland Rose Society, who planted roses at the Veterans Park last year.
Beaverton City Council President Marc San Soucie also was in attendance. He commended TVF&R for hosting the event.
"This is a wonderful thing," San Soucie said. "This is a new ceremony to this area where we can celebrate the contributions of firefighters and all first-responders."
The program included a moment of silence to remember the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor the memory of those who lost their lives. The TVF&R Honor Guard presented colors.
TVF&R retired firefighter Tim Birr concluded the ceremony with an appropriately haunting version of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.
Firefighters and personnel wore customized camouflage shirts they purchased as part of an effort to raise awareness and support for the work of the United Services Organization, a nonprofit that assists troops through every step of their service — from deployment to rehabilitation to reintegration.
Prior to the ceremony, Beaty said she was excited to talk about the USO. "It has been a fundamental piece of my life both as a soldier and now as an army wife. Just seeing the USO signs while traveling in airports reminds me that our family is not alone in our journey."
Beaty spoke at the ceremony about her experiences with the USO. When she was 19, she spent her first Thanksgiving away from her family during her first of five years in active duty with the U.S. Army. Beaty said the USO provided a place where she could relax and be alone with her feelings. She cited a second experience when she had to say goodbye to her husband during his fifth deployment many years later and once again felt the comfort it provided.