Residents from Canby, Molalla and Colton gathered at their respective fire stations on Saturday, Sept. 11 to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks twenty years ago.
That day, nearly 3,000 people were killed after a pair of hijacked airplanes destroyed the two towers of the World Trade Center and another plane attacked the Pentagon. A fourth airliner on a domestic flight was hijacked by terrorists and following an attempt by crew and passengers to regain control, crashed into field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board.
Colton Rural Fire Protection District #70 hosted a 9/11 Memorial Ceremony with guests Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith and Oregon Rep. Rick Lewis.
Smith addressed the crowd saying, "It is up to us to remember and reflect on the sacrifices and memories of those who died and those who sacrificed to save others and to support those who volunteered at Ground Zero and who continue to sacrifice from exposure to the toxic conditions and cancers that are linked to those toxins."
Lewis addressed the firefighters during his speech.
"Remember your brothers and sisters who died on this day," he said, "who ran into and not away. We all have a deep-felt gratitude and appreciation for the first responders. And thank you for your continuing service on the front lines to protect our communities."
Lewis instructed those in attendance to "enjoy the sunshine, have a good day, but don't forget what happened 20 years ago."
Colton Interim Fire Chief, Todd Gary, with the help of Colton Lutheran Church, held a traditional bell ceremony, as did many fire stations across the nation. Gary explained the meaning: "In the past, as firefighters began their tour of duty, a bell signaled the beginning of the shift. A bell ringing during a shift summoned the responders to fight fires and when the fire was out a bell signaled the completion of the call. Bells were used on the front of apparatus to warn the public that they were responding and when a firefighter died in the line of duty, it was the tolling of the bell that announced their passing. To honor the devotion the firefighters at Ground Zero today, we will toll in a traditional bell service a special signal of three rings, three times each, to represent the end of the duties of the fallen fire fighters of 9/11."
A social time followed the memorial ceremony, and Colton community members gathered to share and reflect on what they were doing and what the tragic event meant to their lives.
"I was up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work," Lonny Johnson said. "I turned on the TV and at 6:15 my heart sank. I watched the plane, flown by terrorist, hit the tower filled with people. Before the week was over my son Matthew had jumped into his car and driven to New York City to prove we were not afraid and as a country we would stand together."
Volunteer firefighter Jacob Phillips was in second grade in 2001. He said his teacher rolled a T.V. into the classroom. "It was hard to believe and devastating to realize what we were seeing and to learn how many perished as the news unfolded."
Retired career firefighter and Colton board president Rex Rice said when he heard the news of the 9/11 attacks that, "Reality hits you in the face. It could be me, my friends or family. You don't know if or when there will be another attack. The New York City firefighters were well trained and had the best equipment but did not get the chance to go home. After that day, I made a promise to myself each morning as I left to go to the station, 'I will come home.' "
"I was a sophomore in high school," Colton volunteer firefighter Jasmine Schneider said. "It was a hopeless feeling; you couldn't do anything to help, and you just watched people run into the buildings to save others. It affected all of us in some way and we will never forget."
Molalla citizens gathered to not only honor the first responders and many Americans who lost their lives, but to reflect on how our nation came together amid such turmoil, according to Firefighter Jamie Wakefield.
Molalla chaplain Ken Wakefield said of the event, "It's to remember the men and women who sacrificially gave their lives to save just a few."
Nick Williams, chaplain for Molalla Fire, said how glad he was to see so many different generations represented at the ceremony and talked about the importance of continuing the tradition of remembrance and teaching the younger generations about these historical events.
Helen Ohta, a Molalla Resident for 43 years, shared from her experience being in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. She gave account of having seen a large jet plane flying right overhead that was headed for the heart of the city. She also talked about living in Hawaii during Pearl harbor and how what she witnessed on 9/11 brought back memories of standing out in her front yard, with her mother, and seeing the fighter jets in a "dogfight" right above them.
VFW, Molalla Post 3973 assisted in raising a new flag for the coming year and the retired flag was presented to Mrs. Ohta.
"It was nice to see such a great turnout from the community to remember the events that happened 20 years ago," Jamie Wakefield said.
The Canby community also gathered at the local fire station to remember that fateful day.
The ceremony included the traditional posting of the colors, bell ceremony and guest speakers. But this year, the ceremony also included the unveiling of the time capsule that had been buried at Ackerman School's Peace Garden after the tragic events of 9/11 took place, containing newspapers, notes and more.
Oregon Rep. Christine Drazan, who spoke at the event, said it was "incredibly touching."
"As Americans we come together across our nation, 20 years later, to remember our shared history, to honor brave first responders who ran into buildings as others ran out … and to tell the story of the everyday Americans, who became our first soldiers, in the war on terror," Drazan said in a public Facebook post following the event. "We thank those, who on a horrific day, stood in the gap for all of us, putting service and sacrifice above self.
"We need this day to remind us of the values and virtues that represent the high ideals which Americans have chosen to pursue for generations.
"We need heroes â€“ everyday Americans â€“ to continue to rise up; in our daily lives, in our tattered cities, in our struggling families, in our hospitals, streets and schools.
"So, we call to the brave. We hold out hope for the courageous. Bring us together. Change the course of history. Give us new stories, remind a new generation what it means to be Americans.
"The future does not belong to the enemies of democracy, or the antagonists of American unity," she continued. "It belongs to us, to the ones who believe in our national values of freedom, equality and liberty for all, who are willing to stumble, as they press on and treat a rocky, imperfect path, to a more perfect union."
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