9/11 memorial ceremony commemorates fallen rescue workers from past and present

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lora Baker, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders from West Linn, clutches the American flag that was raised at the start of the 9/11 ceremony.Dean Suhr has been organizing the West Linn 9/11 memorial ceremony at Willamette Park for three years now — and attending them for many more — but the raw emotion tied to the event remains as strong as ever.

In the frenzy of scheduling and coordinating with public officials and community members, the dueling senses of pride and loss sometimes sneak up on Suhr. This year, it took until when he was finally able to stop and watch as the Patriot Guard Riders Group created a flag line on the dock, the ceremonial wreath was tossed into the Willamette River and firefighters honored the family of West Linn native John Percin Jr., who was one of the hot shots who died June 30 fighting an Arizona wildfire.

“It’s incredible to me how touching this is to everybody,” Suhr said. “I feel like I’m working so hard to make this happen, and when I look around and see how touched everyone is, it’s incredible.”

Representatives from the West Linn Police Department, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office attended the ceremony, as well as state Rep. Julie Parrish and state Sen. Richard Devlin. In all, Suhr estimated that between 50 and 75 people attended the event.

After the flags were raised, a fire boat launched from the boat ramp and West Linn Mayor John Kovash dropped a ceremonial wreath into the water. Then, dozens of community members tossed their own flowers from the shore. by: VERN UYETAKE - Erin Percin Moffenbeier watches as firefighter John Percin Jr. is remembered.

“I was really struck while I was standing on the dock watching everyone else, to see firemen and policemen — who had taken the time to set everything up — then take the time to pay respect to their peers,” Suhr said.

One of those peers was Percin. The Percin family was invited to attend the ceremony and accepted, allowing community members to honor the victim of a more recent tragedy.

Along with the main event on Sept. 11, this year also saw the continuation of a tradition that began two years ago on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

Volunteers tied thousands of yellow ribbons onto the fencing of the A Street Bridge overlooking Interstate 205, alongside a banner reading “West Linn Remembers” that also hangs from the bridge.

Suhr left a bucket of ribbons out near the bridge and had to refill it twice in the week leading up to the anniversary. He also accompanied two classes from West Linn High School over to the bridge to tie ribbons and help keep the memory alive.

“I spoke about 9/11 and tried to instill what it meant for me,” Suhr said. “These kids were just 5, 6 years old when the planes hit the towers. So they really struggled to understand being attacked on our soil.”

From the first anniversary in 2002 through the eighth in 2009, the city held its remembrance ceremony on the Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge. The bridge would be closed off, and the mayors of both cities would meet in the middle before throwing a wreath into the river. Community members followed by dropping their own flowers shortly thereafter.

But on the ninth anniversary, in 2010, the event was canceled because it would have fallen on a Sunday. When the monumental 10th anniversary arrived a year later, the arch bridge was under construction, but Suhr wasn’t going to let another year pass without a ceremony.

So, with his guidance, the event moved to Willamette Park, where the wreath and flowers could still be thrown into the river like in years past. Since then, Suhr has been the primary organizer of the event. by:  VERN UYETAKE - Staff Sgt. Randy Cerda, his wife, Makananda, and daughter, Anisa, watch as the American flag is raised. by:  VERN UYETAKE - Mayor John Kovash places the ceremonial floral wreath into the river. by:  VERN UYETAKE - Erin Percin Moffenbeier tosses her bouquet of flower into the water. by: VERN UYETAKE -  John and Mary Percin, the parents of fallen firefighter John Percin Jr. are present to accept the honor for their son.

by: VERN UYETAKE - At the conclusion of the event, members of the community toss their flowers in the VERN UYETAKE - The flag was again raised at the Willamette Park boat ramp for last week's 9/11 ceremony.

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