They gathered Wednesday for a remembrance that’s become an annual event.
With Commencement Bay as a backdrop, about 250 people came to Marine Park on Tacoma’s Ruston Way to remember Sept. 11, 2001, the deadliest day in U.S. history for firefighters. Of nearly 3,000 people who died from the 9/11 attack in New York, 343 were firefighters or paramedics. Sixty were police officers.
In Tacoma’s morning ceremony, speakers praised the human instinct that impels some people to put themselves at risk for the sake of others.
“Nothing is free. Nothing is guaranteed, unless I do it myself, unless you do it, unless we do it,” said Tacoma City Council member Robert Thoms. “There’s no better calling in life than service. Serve your fellow man.”
The ceremony was organized by the Tacoma Fire Department. Pierce County firefighters and local law enforcement agencies also took part, accompanied by the Pierce County Firefighters Pipes and Drums corps and the Sonoro Women’s Choir. The Tacoma fireboat “Destiny” idled 100 yards off shore.
Tacoma Fire Chief James Duggan said Sept. 11 was “a day marked by enormous loss as well as tremendous courage.”
“As each of us stands here today, we must do more than simply reflect on the vivid images of the past – the collapsed towers, the damaged Pentagon, a plane crashed in a field,” the chief said. “Although we can hardly view the future and what it holds for us, we must clearly see ourselves committed to serving the public, no matter what challenges we may encounter.
“It is from the sum of those commitments, a thread from each of us here today, that the fabric of a promise is made, a promise worthy of Sept. 11: that we ourselves, as individuals and as a community, will have the courage to face whatever lies ahead and have the resolve to act for the common good.”
Later Wednesday, a gathering hosted by West Pierce Fire & Rescue unveiled a bronze firefighter statue as the finishing touch to the 9/11 reflection park they dedicated a year ago at the 3631 Drexler Dr. W. station.
A line of duty death monument to honor fallen West Pierce firefighters was also added.
The project was entirely funded by donations.
School groups take field trips to the park to learn about the history of 9/11, and firefighters say chalk messages from children about the day frequently cover the sidewalk there.
“It’s really special,” 9-year-old Emma Stafki said about the monument. Her grandfather John P. Jewell is the artist of the statue. “Because firefighters risked their lives to save other people.”
West Pierce’s park is one of several underway locally to feature pieces of steel from the fallen towers; Gig Harbor, South King and Central Kitsap Fire (which dedicated its memorial Wednesday) all applied for and received pieces of steel from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
A coalition in Milton has also applied. They would expand the veterans park to feature the steel.
Jack Chandler, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11401, is a leader of the project. He wants a place to help his others understand the significance of 9/11, he said: “It’s important for our younger generations to learn about events that changed the world.”