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9/11: Remembering Our Heroes honors the fallen

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The remembrance ceremony moved from the Arch Bridge to Willamette Park in 2011. Twenty minutes after a second plane struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Dean Suhr raised an American flag outside his West Linn home.

He felt helpless, thousands of miles away and unable to lend any sort of assistance to the thousands of victims and rescue workers on the East Coast. All he could do, in that moment, was put the flag up and vow never to forget this day.

Now, 12 years later, Suhr is in the midst of his third year as the primary organizer of West Linn’s 9/11: Remembering Our Heroes event, which takes place Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. on the Willamette Park boat ramp.

After some brief spoken words, a fire boat will be launched from the boat ramp and a wreath tossed into the river, per tradition. A public flower toss will follow that, along with a meet-and-greet opportunity with police and firefighters.

Representatives from the West Linn Police Department, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and military veterans will be on hand at the ceremony, and this year Suhr also reached out to local Forest Service firefighters in honor of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona back in June — including West Linn native John Percin Jr.

Percin's family agreed to attend, as did the Patriot Guard Riders group.

“On its surface, we want to honor everyone, all first responders,” Suhr said. “But we also want to make sure the community doesn’t forget its heroes and for kids to be exposed to all of the unsung heroes around them.”Along with the main event on Sept. 11, Suhr will also continue a tradition that began two years ago on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

On Sept. 2, a few members of West Linn Boy Scout Troop No. 149 and West Linn resident Alice Richmond started to hang what will add up to thousands of yellow ribbons onto the fencing of the A Street Bridge overlooking Interstate 205.

Buckets filled with more ribbons are on the bridge so members of the public can add them until Sept. 11. A banner reading “West Linn Remembers” also hangs from the bridge.

“We’ll provide at least 3,000 ribbons,” Suhr said. “About the headcount of victims on Sept. 11.”

From the first anniversary in 2002 through the eighth in 2009, the city held its remembrance ceremony on the Arch Bridge between West Linn and Oregon City. 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. A PA system allowed for a few spoken words — and indeed, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden spoke at the 10th anniversary event — but it mostly remained a silent commemoration.

“It wasn’t completely silent like it used to be,” Suhr said. “But we tried to keep it at a minimum.”

That event marked the start of a new tradition, and with each passing year Suhr feels more urgency to keep the memories alive.

“It’s a great gathering point to remind us it’s not all about street fees and taxes and who’s yapping about development,” Suhr said. “Some people would suggest maybe that 9/11 is so long ago, and here we are, it’s the 12th anniversary. But Hot Shot (firefighters) died in that fire 60 days ago. ... These things are ongoing today, so it’s not just all about 9/11.”

To learn more about the Remembering Our Heroes event, visit

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - After a wreath is tossed into the river, community members throw their own commemorative flowers.

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