It was a day of remembering, honoring and pledging to never forget those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
A crowd of more than 400 Sunday morning heard several speakers’ heartfelt thoughts during a 10th-anniversary ceremony at Vancouver Landing on the Columbia River.
“It’s going to be emotional for a lot of people,” said Vancouver’s Tom Dombeck, 67, an Air Force veteran, as he waited for the ceremony to begin in the amphitheater next to the Red Lion Inn at the Quay.
Bright sunshine blessed the event, and as Vancouver police Officer Rey Reynolds sang the national anthem, he held on a bit longer at the phrase “the land of the free.”
“The promise we made that day was to remember … to never forget,” Vancouver Fire Chief Joseph Molina told the crowd.
He said he was reliving the emotions of that day, including thinking of “Ladder 118 making its last run across the Brooklyn Bridge, never to be seen again.”
Middagh Street’s Ladder Company 118 lost its entire six-man crew that day at the World Trade Center.
Division Chief Ward Knable, 49, was in the same mode of reliving the event.
“It strikes my heart thinking of the 343 firefighters who were killed,” Knable said. “There were 28 who I worked with over the years.”
Knable, 28 years with the Vancouver Fire Department, said he went to New York City over several years before 9/11 to teach firefighters about K-9 searches. He serves on the Washington State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.
Ironically, those dogs are trained to search for bodies and cadavers.
Call to duty
Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas said he visited Ground Zero a month after 9/11 and was awed by the “reverent silence” at the site where the Twin Towers were attacked.
He said some might ask why a firefighter or police officer would volunteer to be in harm’s way.
And then he answered the question with a string of reasons, including “a sense of honor … a calling from God to simply do the right thing.”
Lucas continued, reciting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where the president said, “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
A teaching moment
Navy veteran Stephen Doerk, 42, of Vancouver was in the crowd, his children, Zack, 9, and Jylian, 10, flanking him.
“She was less than a year old and he wasn’t born for another three months,” he said. But he said at home and at the ceremony, the children learned about 9/11, even the airplanes crashing into the towers.
“I think they’re old enough to understand that reality can be pretty brutal sometimes,” Doerk said. He served 20 years in the Navy.
Lyndsey Rehberg, 28, was in the amphitheater with her children, Logan, nearly 2, and Sydney 3½. Both youngsters were in American flag outfits.
“She picked it out this morning,” Lyndsey said of Sydney’s dress.
“We went to the 911 center open house yesterday because we’re teaching her about 9/11. Not telling her what it means exactly, but teaching her to be respectful of police and firefighters.”
She said she also was thinking of her friend Air Force 1st Lt. David Trone, who is in Libya.
His mother, Nilda Trone, 52, also was nearby. She said David, 24, is an air battle manager on missions with a JSTAR crew.
“I’m really hoping he can call me today,” Nilda said.
Holding to memories
The 42-minute ceremony was full of symbolism.
• Dr. Nicholas Carulli of Vancouver presented a photograph of an apple tree (the tree of life) with sunflowers blanketing the earth beneath it. He said the framed photo will be sent to the 9/11 memorial in New York City. The sunflowers symbolize those who lost their lives on 9/11. He also asked people to sign a book to also be presented at the memorial. He said the book contains the signatures of then-New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and two New York firefighters who survived after responding to Ground Zero. Asked how she signed the book, Christine Thomas of Washougal said, “I just said good always triumphs over evil.”
• Businessman Elle Kassab presented two table-top 9/11 sculptures to the Vancouver police and fire departments. They are by Battle Ground sculptor Jim Demetro, who was in Chehalis to unveil his four-figure sculpture to commemorate 9/11. They will be part of a veterans museum there.
• At least six other events around Clark county commemorated the day.
As the Vancouver Landing ceremony came to a close, many were teary as the Vancouver Fire Department Pipes and Drums band played “Amazing Grace.”
“Taps” was heard, the fire bell was rung 15 times, Portland Fire Boat 17 sent four plumes of water skyward in the Columbia, and bunches of red and blue balloons, representing those who died, were released.
From the crowd, the voice of 6-year-old Dayne Cobb of Vancouver was heard crying, “The balloons are flying away.”