Local events aim to keep memories of 9/11 alive

Firefighters remind people of significance of 2001 terrorist attacks

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter


photoDistrict 3 firefighter Andrew Wolf sets some of the more than 300 flags placed at the fire station ahead of today’s 9/11 observance in Hockinson.


photoFour U.S. flags at the fire station represent the four attack sites in the annual 9/11 flag display at Clark County Fire District 3 in Hockinson. Each of the 300 smaller flags represent 10 people who died on 9/11.


9/11 observances

• Clark County Fire District 3: A memorial ceremony is at 6:58 a.m. at the Hockinson fire station, 17718 N.E. 159th St. There also is a display to honor those who died.

• Camas-Washougal: A 9/11 remembrance ceremony is at 8 a.m. in front of the Washougal Fire Station, 1400 A St. Firefighters Local 2444 then will host a breakfast at the station; both events are open to the public.

• Vancouver: A Patriot Day ceremony in front of Vancouver City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St., is at 9 a.m.

• East County Fire & Rescue: A granite memorial will be dedicated at 7:30 p.m. at Station 91, 600 N.E. 267th Ave. There will be a lighting of luminaria at 8 p.m. and a reading of the names of first responders who died on 9/11. There also is a spaghetti dinner, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Station 91.

HOCKINSON — Firefighters around Clark County are taking the opportunity today to remind people of the significance of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even the memories of some people now wearing fire service uniforms are little fuzzy on the details of 9/11. There’s a good reason: Some were only 5 years old when it happened.

Bailey Phelps said he was at his grandparents’ house on Sept. 11, 2001. There seemed to be something important happening on TV. But all they told Phelps was that “something bad was going on,” the 17-year-old fire cadet said during a break from class at the Hockinson fire station.

“A lot of our fire cadets are juniors and seniors in high school,” said Jason Mansfield, a captain with Clark County Fire District 3. “They’re almost too young to remember something that happened 12 years ago.”

“People who were 5 years old, they don’t have the same gut-wrenching feelings we have,” District 3 Fire Chief Steve Wrightson said.

Now 19, Ryan Beickel, a District 3 intern, was shielded from the immediate horrors of the terrorist attacks.

“My second-grade teacher was crying, so I knew it was something bad,” Beickel said.

That’s one reason why several public safety agencies in Clark County are holding commemorative events today. Fire District 3 opens the schedule with a 6:58 a.m. observance.

A big part of the event is ensuring that people don’t forget about 9/11, Mansfield said. But there’s another aspect.

“A lot of what we do — the culture and heritage and history of the fire service — we want to pass that along to the younger generation,” Mansfield said.

The occasion also reminds the cadets of the job’s risks.

It’s a job that Mansfield describes as “very dynamic.”

“We prepare; we try to prepare for everything. But we don’t know what we have until we size up the situation,” Mansfield said.

Phelps and classmates Austin Gray, Andrew Rath and Peter Tomceac all are hoping for firefighting careers. And they all say they know what that means.

“You risk a lot to save a lot,” Gray said.

District 3 firefighters on Tuesday put up their annual display of flags in front of the fire station, 17718 N.E. 159th St. Four large flags represent the four sites that were attacked; 300 smaller flags each honor 10 people who died.

“We’ve had people stop and get out of their cars and look at the flags,” Wrightson said. “A lot of people take pictures.

“A few years back, a person in a postal service uniform pulled up in a car, took his hat off, put it next to a flag, got up and left his hat there. I still have it,” the District 3 fire chief said. “It likely was a remembrance to postal workers who died.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.