PORT ANGELES — Public safety officials, veterans and others marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a formal ceremony Monday at the newly named 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park.
“We’re here to remember 9/11 and honor those who perished on that day, those that helped and assisted on that day [and] all the people that were affected in our great nation on that day,” said Alan Barnard, chair and founder of the Clallam County Public Safety Tribute Committee.
He called the ceremony a rededication of the two monuments at what was previously named the Francis Street Park.
“These monuments, as far as I’m concerned, are sacred,” he told the 100 people who attended. “It is our acknowledgment of those in public safety that gave so much and our acknowledgment of all of you in public safety that give so much every day.”
At the park is a monument featuring a steel I-beam from the World Trade Center and another honoring public safety officials.
During the ceremony, Rick McKenzie performed two pieces on bagpipes, the Grand Olympics Chorus sang patriotic music, an honor guard performed a flag ceremony and people heard from speakers representing the Port Angeles Police Department, Port Angeles Fire Department and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith told those who attended that when Americans are in need, everyone becomes a first responder.
“We’re all first responders and September 11 reminded us of that,” he said. “New York, Texas, Florida — you see it every day when there is a big event.”
Port Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jamie Mason said that he has never seen the city of Port Angeles come together like it did in the days following the terrorist attacks.
“I’ve never seen our little town respond to any event the way Port Angeles did in the days and weeks after the attacks,” he said. “People stopped us wherever we went, some to donate money toward the cause, some just to get a hug. They needed it, and frankly, so did we.”
He said the fire department wanted to help immediately after the attacks, but was told no more rescue teams were needed.
What local firefighters were able to help with was remembering the firefighters who lost their lives helping others after the attacks.
“It became apparent there were not enough uniformed personnel to attend the funerals and honor each sacrifice properly,” he said. “We went to two or three memorials every day and stood at attention for the familiar ring of fire bells ringing the last call and wiping tears as the bagpipes played.”
He said firefighters stood by to hear stories of the ordinary men and women who were doing extraordinary things with their lives and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s been 16 years since then,” Mason said. “My kids have grown up hearing about 9/11 like I grew up hearing my dad talk about the wars of his day.”
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict took his time to thank Barnard, who has been instrumental in the development of the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park.
He said Barnard has been the person who pushed for both monuments at the park and renaming the park.
“This is a time when we’re looking at the sacrifices of people in the past, but something I want to do is look forward and recognize this man who is way too modest to include himself in any of this,” Benedict said.
Benedict presented Barnard with a photo of Barnard, taken by Tim O’Neill. The photographer reached out to Benedict, wanting to get the photo to Barnard, even though they had no idea who was in the photo.
“This [photo] shows Alan where he likes to be, contributing and helping out with the efforts of recognizing others,” Benedict said.
Barnard said he was humbled at the gesture and that he doesn’t give much compared to those serving in public safety and the military.
“The accolades I appreciate Bill, but I share them with hundreds, perhaps thousands of others in the community who rise to the occasion quietly and behind the scenes doing what is necessary to look out for one another and to make this the special community we live in,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].