Video at bottom of story
Watch of video of the Camas-Washougal 9/11 memorial ceremony at the bottom of this story.
(Vivian Johnson, for The Columbian)
Eleven years have passed since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It is a day that should never be forgotten, testified county residents, firefighters, police officers and elected officials.
A handful of commemorative ceremonies took place across the county Tuesday.
“It’s a celebration of the selfless acts of courage of 403 firefighters and police officers on that fateful day,” Camas-Washougal Fire Department Chief Nick Swinhart said. “Those who tried till the last minute to save their fellow man even though they knew their own chance of survival was gone.”
He spoke at a morning ceremony in Camas. After Swinhart spoke, a group of firefighters lowered the flag to half-mast, prayers were read, and the group went inside the library for a pancake breakfast prepared by firefighters.
Mary Mabry is one of a few residents who attended the ceremony with firefighters, police, family members and a group of elementary schoolchildren.
“I wish we had more private citizens here this morning,” she said. “I think it’s a very important day.”
She said on Tuesday she planned on flying the flag given to her when her husband, Chuck, who was in the Air Force for four years, died. She flies that flag on important days.
“We as citizens should give our full support to the people who gave their lives that day and never forget,” she said.
That day forever changed the lives of the families of the victims, said Chris Sutter, interim chief of the Vancouver Police Department.
“Our country, our community and our lives will never be the same, either,” he said during a ceremony outside Vancouver City Hall.
Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina recalled his experience on that day. Molina said he had just started a shift at a fire station in Waco, Texas, when he first heard about the attacks. He watched on TV as workers helped co-workers, police evacuated buildings and firefighters performed search and rescue and attempted to fight the flames.
“As the fires burned, great acts of courage, selflessness and sacrifice were occurring,” Molina said.
“All these individuals were experiencing a point in their lives when they were called to serve,” Molina said. “Some by design and some by circumstance.”
Then Molina and his crew got a call to respond to someone who was having difficulty breathing.
“We were being called to serve,” he said. “Although the event was not comparable, the spirit of being called to serve was, and just for a moment, we were with them in the building.”
Vancouver City Councilor Larry Smith said Sept. 11, now called Patriot Day, is a time to honor police, firefighters, first responders and the military.
“We salute them. We honor them. We remember them,” he said.
Clark County Fire District 3 firefighters planted 304 American flags in front of the Hockinson station — 300, each representing 10 people killed on 9/11, and four larger flags for the four sites that were attacked.
“A lot of people slow down or honk or wave,” said Chief Steve Wrightson.
About 30 people showed up to the annual ceremony.
Around 7 a.m., firefighters did the traditional ringing of the bell ceremony, where the fire alarm is rung in three sets of five rings to honor firefighters who lost their lives on duty.
Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt and fire Chaplain Mike White spoke about how ordinary citizens stepped up that day and made the country better. They said we should never forget, but move forward with strength and resolve.
Youth from Hockinson Community Church sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” and “God Bless America.” Afterwards, people watched a short video on 9/11, showing the names and faces of those who died.
Wrightson said on Patriot Day people should remember not just the firefighters and emergency responders but all the people who were killed that day.
East County Fire & Rescue started its traditional Ceremony of Remembrance on Tuesday evening with a spaghetti dinner. After sunset, firefighters and participants lit tea candles in white sandwich bags as volunteers read the names of the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
“The whole bag glows and it’s absolutely beautiful,” said volunteer Rick Knapp.
The Fort Vancouver Pipe Band played “Amazing Grace” and the Columbia Presbyterian Church’s bell choir played “Song of Peace” written to commemorate the Oklahoma City bombings and the 9/11 attacks.
A group of local motorcyclists arrived at the evening’s events with big flags strapped to their bikes.
“One of the big reasons why we do this (ceremony), is so our children don’t forget,” Knapp said.