PORT ANGELES — Out of the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks came heroism, courage, valor and a united country, speakers told those gathered around an I-beam from the World Trade Center at the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park in Port Angeles on Wednesday.
On the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 people, approximately 100 people gathered at the park to honor first responders and those who died that day, while rededicating the monument at the park.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict told the crowd that since 9/11 he feels attitudes toward law enforcement have changed and increasing divisiveness will leave the country vulnerable again.
“Immediately in the aftermath of 9/11 our country came together; we were united,” the non-partisan sheriff said. “Now, 18 years forward, I can’t say we’re so united.
“I’ve never seen such a partisan divide in my 69 years on this planet as what we have now.”
Benedict said law enforcement has become a central focus of that divide, with lawmakers passing laws that create sanctuary cities, counties and states and seeking to limit local involvement with federal law enforcement officials.
“We should put first responders, including law enforcement, in the proper perspective,” Benedict said. “They are here to help and they are here to try to prevent something like 9/11.”
The ceremony Wednesday was organized by Alan Barnard, who is chair and founder of the Public Safety Tribute Citizens Committee and co-creator of the monument at the park.
The American Legion Riders, Clallam County Sheriff’s honor guard, Grand Olympics Chorus and bagpiper Rick McKenzie participated in the annual ceremony.
Port Angeles Fire Chief Ken Dubuc told those in attendance that he does not believe the hundreds of firefighters and police officers who died while helping people during the attack would want to be remembered as heroes, but as people who did their jobs.
“They were doing what they signed up to do and if they were faced with doing it again today they would,” Dubuc said. “It’s what all first responders sign up for and it’s what all first responders pledge to do every day. You don’t get to choose the calls you go on.”
Dubuc said that while many are focusing on remembering those who died, it’s important not to forget those still living with the long-term affects of the attacks.
“One of the grim realities unfortunately right now is that among the first responder community, more first responders have passed away since 9/11 than did on 9/11, and they are passing away from diseases and illnesses they contracted while they responded to 9/11,” Dubuc said.
“We talk about remembering, but they are living it now.
“There are hundreds more living it now … and they are carrying those scars with them as they try to exist day to day.”
The Rev. Ed Evans, Clallam County Sheriff’s chaplain, said that the date Sept. 11 carries a heavy burden of memory.
“We remember images of death and destruction, images that human eyes were never meant to see,” Evans said. “We remember words our ears were never meant to hear, the tender last words of husbands and wives who would never embrace again.”
Evans said that it’s a rite that should not fade from memory. He prayed for peace.
Barnard thanked those who attended and said the ceremony will happen again next year at noon on Sept. 11 at the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park in Port Angeles.
“We will meet again next year at this time, at this place, to remember 9/11 and to acknowledge and thank our public safety people of Clallam County … and across the nation,” Barnard said.
“We will rededicate the monument and rededicate ourselves to never forget September 11th, 2001.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].