PORT ANGELES — Community members, first responders and veterans paid tribute Tuesday to the 2,996 people who died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 17 years ago.
“The fact that we’re here and thinking about the people who were lost that day is important,” Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith told the crowd of about 80 people at the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park in Port Angeles on Tuesday.
The ceremony began with retired Coast Guardsman Rick McKenzie playing a song on the bagpipes as American Legion Riders held United States flags around the perimeter of the park.
The Grand Olympics Chorus sang patriotic songs and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Color Guard raised the U.S. flag over an I-beam procured from Ground Zero at the former World Trade Center.
Port Angeles Fire Chief Ken Dubuc told those who attended that most of the helmets at the Port Angeles Fire Station have a sticker that says “343.”
“That 343 is honoring those firefighters that day who went into the World Trade Center and didn’t come back out,” he said.
“We have members of our department right now who have 343 stickers on their helmets to honor those gentleman who weren’t even in kindergarten yet when this occurred.”
Dubuc said he doesn’t believe any of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives would want to be called heroes — a word with which he often struggles.
“I think, quite frankly, they would say they were doing their jobs, what was expected of them, what they were proud to do, that they were serving their city and country, and I don’t think any of them would wish to be or would want to be called heroes,” he said.
“Heroes are a special breed of people and quite clearly those ladies and gentleman that day were. We need to honor them and we can’t forget them.”
The first speaker of the ceremony was Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Sam Allen, who, with the help of Lt. Andrew Moravec, procured the I-beam that now rests at the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park.
Allen told the story about how he and his friend wanted to do something for the community and ended up working with the Coast Guard, city of Port Angeles and the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey to bring the I-beam to Port Angeles.
“From my perspective, having served in the Navy and law enforcement, when Sam was up here and he said they ran into some difficulties, that is an understatement,” said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.
“Those two … had to cut through some incredible red tape within the Coast Guard and the federal government.
“Were it not for their perseverance, we would not have this,” Benedict said.
Benedict said Tuesday was also a good time to remember local first responders who died while serving their community.
Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Wally Davis was shot and killed Aug. 5, 2000 while responding to a disturbance.
Forest Service Officer Kristine Fairbanks was shot and killed Sept. 20, 2008 when she investigated a suspicious vehicle.
Alan Barnard, chair and founder of the Clallam County Public Safety Tribute Committee and organizer of this year’s event, said the event will happen again next year as well.
“We’re going to convene next year at the same time and the same place to do a similar thing and to enjoy the successes we have in the coming year and to appreciate the public safety people in our community and our country and to reflect and remember 9/11 and all those who gave so much and lost their lives on that day,” Barnard said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].