Honoring sacrifice and survivors of 9/11

September 12, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,sun reporter

Baltimore Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. addressed the why, and he did so emphatically.

Speaking at a memorial service in Baltimore yesterday, he said people have asked him about the relevance of a Sept. 11 commemoration five years after the attacks in New York and in Northern Virginia.

"As 9/11 approaches, people stop you," Goodwin said. "They wonder if you're going to do a commemoration and why? The why struck me funny. Why not? We forget about the survivors, the people who are living with such pain. We had members in our own department in New York that still deal with what they had to see and what they had to do."

With a lighted candle nestled underneath an American flag serving as a backdrop, nearly 100 firefighters, police officers and city leaders gathered in the War Memorial Building to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks.

As those who attended recited the Pledge of Allegiance at 8:46 a.m., the time the first jet slammed into the World Trade Center building, a church bell rang. A moment of silence followed the pledge.

After a few brief speeches, Mayor Martin O'Malley joined the honor guard and led the processional across the street to a memorial for fallen firefighters.

"We were never more united as a people, even in our grief, than we were that day," O'Malley said. "And it was a powerful feeling to have the world behind us and pulling for us."

Ceremonies took place across the state, including in Annapolis, where about 40 firefighters, police officers, government officials and elementary school pupils walked from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to the Maryland Fallen Firefighters Memorial on Calvert Street as part of the Maryland Freedom Walk.

Two giant flags - one U.S. and one Maryland - hung from firetruck ladders above the statues as several speakers honored the fallen.

"It was the most terrible event I've ever been involved with," said Thomas Stanton, chief of the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department who spent 10 days at the Pentagon, beginning just hours after the attack.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he was thankful that children from St. Mary's Elementary in Annapolis had attended and urged them to go up to someone in uniform and thank them.

"Today we honor sacrifice," he said, noting that the nation was pondering the loss of those who died in New York, at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and in Pennsylvania. "But we also honor service, the continual service of those who wear uniforms."

At the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department, firefighter Tom White rang a bell in memoriam at 10:28 a.m., the time the second World Trade Center tower in New York collapsed.

In front of the Fire Department, state and U.S. flags hung at half-staff, and a line of firefighters in full gear pulled the bell's rope five times before pausing briefly and repeating the series three more times. The four sets of five rings is the New York City Fire Department's line-of-duty death alarm.

On Sept. 11, 2001, it would have rung 343 times for the number of firefighters who died in the attack on the twin towers.

The Sykesville department had planned to ring the bells at 9:59 a.m., when the first tower collapsed, but two pieces of equipment were called out shortly before 10 a.m.

"It was decided to hold the memorial at those times because that is where the greatest loss of life in New York occurred, and it's the most visual scene in people's minds," said Bill Rehkopf, Sykesville's public information officer. "And in the Fire Department's standpoint, it marked the largest loss of life."

Later in the afternoon, in Baltimore, Women in Black, an international network for Peace, joined with members of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and a host of local churches lining Charles Street from the Inner Harbor to the Beltway.

Baltimore County police said a man who appeared to have too much to drink threw a golf ball from the grounds of the Elkridge Country Club, adjacent to Charles Street, and hit one of the marchers. Police said the two men later shook hands and no charges were filed.

Two fiddlers played at Centre and Charles streets as about 20 held signs promoting peace, protesting war and remembering the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Peggy Conner of Baltimore was not affiliated with any group, but heard about the demonstration and decided to join.

"People need to be reminded of a day like this," Conner said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Bradley Olson, Ellie Baublitz and Nick Shields contributed to this article.

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